Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ask A Korean! News: Prince Fielder's hereto unknown Korean connection

Dear readers, the Korean is currently borrowing the Korean Girlfriend's laptop in order to report this amazing news of significant consequence.

On Friday, the Korean was watching the New York Mets versus Milwaukee Brewers baseball on his newly acquired HD TV, and the current major league home run leader Prince Fielder stepped into the box. Fielder is in the Korean's fantasy baseball team, the Inland Empire 66ers, so the Korean paid close attention.

Then the Korean noticed something so improbable that at first the Korean disbelieved his own eyes. The Korean reached for his remote, desperately hit "rewind" and "pause" on his DVR over and over and again, but it was there. So here is the news, reported for the first time here at Ask A Korean!:

Prince Fielder has a neck tattoo that says wangja ("prince") in Korean on his left neck. See the picture below.I mean, what the hell. Seriously, who the hell gets a tattoo in Korean? (Unless there is a good reason to, like Hines Ward who has his name tattooed in Korean because he is half-Korean.)

The Korean has no idea how to feel about this. On one hand, it could be seen as evidence that Korea is becoming more recognized in the U.S. in various ways. Formerly, East Asia consisted of China and Japan, and Korea was kind of an afterthought. But tattoo in foreign language is usually done because it is considered "exotic", so the Korean is not sure if this is the case that Korea is more known in the U.S.

The overwhelming feeling that the Korean experienced (especially upon looking at the picture again) was how stupid neck tattoos look. The Korean always thought neck tattoos were silly, but seeing one in letters that the Korean can recognize was really the clincher. Even if neck tattoos were in English, they are usually done in some Olde English font so they are not readily readable. But Prince Fielder's neck tattoo is written in plain, legible Korean. It is as if some regular Korean dude was hanging out and drinking with Prince Fielder one night, then Fielder passes out, and the Korean dude picked up a marker and wrote it on his neck as a joke. (Like poor Zach Braff here in Garden State.)

Did anyone else notice any Korean tattoos on people? The Korean would love to hear your story. Please write on the comment, or email the Korean.

Got a question or comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. Neck tattoos look gangsta, so I guess it's yet another instance of the richer folk co-opting the symbols of the criminal poor, or rather what they think are symbols of the criminal poor. Maybe he's emulating some Koreatown bangers?

    Nah, you're right, it probably is some Orientalist BS. What's the Korean equivalent of chinoiserie?

  2. That's the thing, the Korean has never seen the Korean equivalent of chinoiserie. That's what's so mind-boggling about this.

  3. A guy came up to me and showed me his "chinese" character tattoo, which he got because he "loves the chinese culture". He thought I was chinese. It seemed as though there is justice in this world. The "chinese" character tattoo was actually japanese hiragana. LOL! (And no, I didn't tell the fool the truth)

  4. Duh, people! The only reason he got a neck tattoo in Korean is to guarantee that the next time he leaves his skin with coat check (at Fancy Pants K-BBQ), he'll be sure to get it back.

  5. Streabbog said:"Duh, people! The only reason he got a neck tattoo in Korean is to guarantee that the next time he leaves his skin with coat check (at Fancy Pants K-BBQ), he'll be sure to get it back."

    LMAO. That's hysterical.

  6. codexgirl:..."He thought I was chinese..." haha it was in hiragana. how lame.

  7. I have a korean symbol for Success...I got it simply because I'm in love with Korean culture and men...and it looked cleaner and more modern than the success symbols in Chinese and Japanese

  8. I'll speak for white people because I am one: tattoos in general, no matter what the design, are always always always WHITE TRASH. Seriously, how many fortune 500 CEOs have tattoos? Or university profs? That goes for nose rings too. One thing I love about East Asia is that there's not much of that crap there.

  9. Dear Kimchiguy,

    While I can understand your comment on tattoos based on modern day principles, the fact is that tattooing and other forms of body modification is one of the most universally common acts in almost all cultures (Not a tattoo lover, just studied a lot of anthropology in school). Tattoos are used for religious symbolism, protection (spiritual and physical) classifications, castes, rights of passage, cosmetic fashion, and even for medicinal purposes. One of the oldest known human remains (colloquially called the Iceman as he was found preserved in a glacial chasm) has what appear to be x's or crosses tattooed on the backs of his knees, and many archaeologists believe they were an attempt to treat an ongoing sickness.

    As for east asians not tolerating tattoos, while current day practices are somewhat inhibitive (and confuciansm is strictly anti-tattoo), the fact is that east asia actually has a very long history of practicing tattoo as an art form (as in, way before automatic machines were around to make it easier).

    Additionally, I know quite a few university professors with tattoos (I live within one hour of a big ten school and less than 10 minutes from a highly ranked and pretty freaking expensive liberal arts college. I'm also about 30 minutes from a fairly average public campus) I also currently work in a fortune 500 company (and a fairly strict one at that) and there are quite a few people in the office and at very high levels of management that have tattoos. The fact that they don't openly show them all the time doesn't mean that they aren't there.

  10. as a korean girl with tattoos (gasp) i think its pretty damn cool that other ethnicities are appreciating the korean written language. More power to them and yes to a more global world. it was all chinese and japanese characters before. Korea is getting hipper with the Hallyu wave and neck tattoos are really not that big a deal amongst the subversive trendy crowd. in west hollywood. i think its damn awesome he did that.

  11. I am in the process of getting a tattoo based on a picture from a Korean temple. My wife and I adopted a boy from Korea and I decide to tattoo based on the Korean culture with his Korea name. This seems to be a common thing with adoptive parents.

  12. I'm a huge Brewers fan, and knew Prince had a Korean tattoo, even before I moved to Korea, started learning the language and then figured out what it said.

    Anyways, don't give Prince so much credit here. He read what his name was in Korean once, and thought "oh that'd be a cool tattoo". He's even said in interviews that he doesn't know how to read it. He's pretty dumb, but can hit home runs, so whatever.

  13. I have two Korean tattoos: 힘 and 화 on the front of my shoulders under my collarbone. I was looking through my Korean flashcards I had made for myself and came across 화 and thought it really represented how I have felt about my life for a long time. It fit so perfectly that I decided to get a tattoo of it. For symmetry and emotional balance I chose 힘 ... although I later realized that my inept Korean skills meant that I had tattooed physical rather than emotional strength on myself :) They are both so beautiful and elegant, and in a place where they are usually covered up. I agree that tattoos can be tacky (and having one is hardly unique anymore), but I got them for me, not for everyone else. The only people that see them are my close friends and family when I am relaxed at home. The guy who did the work wanted to stylize them (make them look more Japanese or Chinese). But I wanted it to be classic Korean and look classic Korean. I have actually been asked if they were from the movie "Blade" or if they were plumbers symbols. Nobody recognizes that they're Korean.

  14. I have a tattoo of the Korean flag high on my upper arm, but instead of the red and blue yin-yang in the middle, I have my mother's family name, "No". I am half Korean, and it's my dedication to my heritage. I view tattoos as wearable art. It's not for everyone. I work in the medical field and have been surprised by a few physicians/surgeons that also have tattoos. Althought they're not as taboo as they once were and have become quite commonplace, I'm still carefull to conceal my tattoos in avoidance of people presuming who I am based on my ink. BTW, I think Margaret Cho's tattoos are SO hot. My mother is afraid that I'm going to turn into her. I told her that I don't know any midgets.

    I think people that get Chinese/Japanese character tattoos are stupid, especially if they're not Chinese. If they can read/write/speak the language or have some kind of special tie to that country, then fine. It's pertinent. Here's an idea; if you're black, get something written in an African language. If you're white, then get it in Gaelic or French or whatever. I wish tattoo artists would engrave an "asshole" or "idiot" character instead.

  15. I have a Korean tatto on my upper right arm it says 합기도, which I have been studying for over 5 years, 1 and a half of those years in Korea.

  16. I have 시작이 반이다. tattooed on my inner upper arm. This korean proverb translates to 'Starting is half the task'. I studying in Korea for 6 months and plan on going back. I thought I would have really tough time being away from home but once I got started it flew by. I am very happy I went there.

  17. When I moved a few years ago, the moving company's team of movers included a caucasian woman in her young 20s. She had a Chinese character tattoo on her neck. I recognized the base character 黃 (hwang - 황 - yellow), however, it had a radical on the left side, so I wasn't sure exactly what the character meant.

    So I asked her what the character meant. Her response: "It means Juan. It's my boyfriend's name."

    I then made the mistake of trying to clarify my question. I said, "I wasn't referring to its pronunciation. What I meant to ask was, what does the character itself mean."

    She gave me a semi-annoyed look, and in a "is it really that hard to understand" tone of voice said, "JUAN. It's the name JUAN. That's what it means."

    I was tempted to try and explain to her that the character actually had a meaning - and it most certainly wasn't "Juan."

    But I knew I would be wasting my time.

  18. I did not like Prince Fielder's neck tattoo. If he wanted to have 'wangja' written on his body then he should have placed it on his back side of neck.

    From : Fairy Tattoo Lover

  19. Hmm, well the only tattoo I have ever seen with Korean words on it was one of Korea's coat of arms that my identity crisis having Korean-American friend got in college. (The coat of arms has the name of the country on it.)

    Other than that, the only other places I've seen it are on Hines Ward and Amerie, both half Korean celebs...

  20. Well I've been studying the Korean language for about 2 years now, so I have a tattoo on my back that's my name written in Korean "도리엔" versus just putting my name in English "Dorian" (and no the a is not pronounced like a traditional "a" sound, it's more like "Dorien". Any tattoo I've gotten has meant something to me, and wasn't just done because it's cool. Both of my tattoos are on my back, the Korean one I actually had placed on an old scar I had to make it less noticeable.

    I'm about to get my third and final tattoo on my ankle and it will once again be in Korean characters. Honestly, as long as you actually know for a fact that the characters being inked on you are actually what you want them to mean, then go for it. I'm against getting Chinese or Japanese characters because I don't speak the language, and I don't want to hope that what I'm getting is what I really wanted.

  21. Lets talk about the lovely tats on anyone over 50. Don't you just love tats with faded ink, or ones either wrinkled like an old bag or stretched out and scarred with stretch marks. And what about tats that say dumb ass things like 'love and hate,' or 'mods' all of whom died out 3o years ago.

    Yea, a tat might look great on a twenty year old but when fat and bloated and 20 years down the line when every other 40 year old year has the same style brand and newer designs, or even lack of them, are cooler, they begin to loose their appeal.

    Tats are a brand and eventually it becomes boring, out of date, and old. One of my friends branded himself when he was 17 and every but his parents thought he was cool. Ten years later the shitty tat, which read 'Mum,' just looked plain stupid.

    Yea, your tat look great at twenty, skin nice and taut and the latest design, but I think by the time your 40 it will probably look shite.

  22. If it were me, I'd put a 지 at the end of it.
    But that's just me.

  23. so as far as I know, the story goes that Prince was in a Korean grocery store (buying who knows what), and the sales clerk, making small talk, must have asked him his name. When he said Prince, the guy repeated it back to him in Korean (왕자) and Prince got really excited about it and asked the guy to write it out in Korean. He takes the piece of paper with him to a tattoo parlor and then it's on his neck.

    Kind of a silly reason, but as a kyopo who appreciates her heritage, I like that Prince does too.

  24. Such an old posting but I thought I'd share too. I have two tattoos in Korean on my inner side of wrist. The first one is 용기 and the second one is 친구. Since long ago I've been inspired by kanji. I have studied Japanese. I had also considered taking a tattoo for some years. The past years I've been working on getting over the after effects of depression. I felt that I needed a lot of courage, and that it was something I needed to remember, to be courageous. So I decided to tattoo courage on my wrist. My first thought was to do it in kanji, but I felt it didn't so much to me. But Korean did. I had been on an exchange to Korea for a year, and felt like home in this new country. I also studies Korean. Not to mention it has in many ways been the turning point in my life. The choice was obvious. Courage in Korean. Later I added "friend" under it so I will remember to appreciate my friends. I plan to keep on adding words to the list, but only meaningful ones.

    And yes, I know that 용기 is also a guy's name. Some Koreans have had a fun time with that.


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