This nightmare began when a Korean high school senior “J” decided he might be interested in getting a small tattoo on his body.

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J began searching online for covert tattoo artists who will work on him  — because a majority of Korean tattooists do not accept minors as clients. In fact, by law in South Korea, only those with active medical licenses can provide tattooing services. Thus, for him, finding someone who will risk their already-illegal establishment by serving a minor seemed potentially impossible.

If you’re a minor, no tattooist in his or her right mind will agree to work on you. It is impossible for minors to find a place to take them. Even if they do, it is unlikely that the tattooist is any good…

— South Korean Tattooist

That’s when he came across an advertisement on social media for the tattooist “A” and his studio. When he inquired, A agreed to book the appointment. The day came and J went to the studio — completely unaware of the fact that he was about to step foot into the most dangerous encounter of his life.

As soon as J showed A an outline of the small piece he wanted, the tattooist became hostile.

A said, ‘Small tattoos are for p*ssies. Only chickens get small tattoos.‘ He showed me a book of illustrations and told me to pick one from there. Then, some other hyungs in the studio made me go into a room. Inside, a Thai tattooist was waiting for me.

— J

When J screamed in pain, A and the men watching threatened to hurt him.

I couldn’t hold back the screaming because it hurt so much. But when I asked A to get the tattooist to stop, he told me, ‘If you keep screaming, I’m going to rip your f*cking face apart.‘ He called me a ‘piece of sh*t‘ too and threatened to hurt me if I moved.

— J

While he remained terrified by the aggressiveness in the studio, the tattooist gave him a huge tattoo…

… of a koi fish and some flowers that covered his entire back — none of which he wanted in the first place.

At one point, J found the chance to leave the studio. Only after promising A that he would return to get touch-ups, he was able to escape. When he saw what had been done to his body, he lost all hope. Scared to confront his parents about what happened, he began living a life on the run. Plus, A began coming after him because he had missed his touch-up appointment. He asked some of his good friends to let him stay over — and when that didn’t work anymore, he found shelter on the mountain trails in the neighborhood.

He knew he was running out of options when another hyung reached out to J. This hyung, whom he had known for a long time and trusted, offered to buy him some food. Having starved for days, he agreed to meet the hyung at a restaurant. He had no idea that it was a trap set up by A and A’s minions though.

A showed up half way through the meal and tried to take him by force. When the restaurant owners got suspicious, A shamelessly lied to them.

The boy didn’t seem to want to leave. So we stopped them and asked who they were. They said they’re his cousins. They said the boy was in trouble with his parents because he ran away from home and hadn’t returned in a while. His parents asked them to bring him home. But the boy kept pleading and saying that he would be beaten if we let them take him. So we sat the ‘cousins’ down and made them promise they wouldn’t hurt the boy. One of them left his business card and his license plate number — assuring us that the boy is going to be okay.

— Restaurant Owners

A and his minions dragged J to a basement parking structure, where the vicious attack began.

Then, J was taken to a hotel room — where he was was locked up for hours, brutally beaten and tortured.

As he recalled the incident, he commented that he believed his life was on the line.

They made me get down on the floor. They kicked me around. They smashed my head with the metal coffee pot. They shoved a towel in my mouth and taped it up around my head. They shoved my head down the sink full of water.

— J

When everyone fell asleep, J escaped A’s horrors yet again. This time though, he asked the hotel lobby for help and got the police got involved. The hotel’s CCTV caught J — running for his life.

I thought I might lose my life in that room that day. I remember thinking, ‘This is how I’m going to die, without having seen my parents in weeks…‘ I couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen to my parents when they found out about everything. They would cry so much…

— J

The police arrested two of the many culprits at the scene. These men, when confronted about their involvement in J’s forced-tattooing, kidnapping, and torturing, showed no remorse.

I don’t know if you can call it kidnapping. I do admit that I did beat him up. But it had nothing to do with his tattoo. I didn’t like the way he used emojis in his text messages to me. It felt like he was mocking me, so I got upset. That’s the only reason I went after him and jumped him… Besides, what do you know about it to be asking me questions like this?

— Perpetrator B, A’s Minion

Yes, we broke his nose. But that’s not a big deal. Sh*t like that happens everywhere, every day. I can’t believe we made the news for breaking a nose. I will never understand why this got so blown up.

— Perpetrator C, A’s Minion

The investigation is still ongoing, with the police looking deeper into the connections between J’s tattoos, A’s studio, and the minions’ assault. Meanwhile, J now faces up to years of painful laser tattoo removal process and a minimum of $10,000 USD in costs.

I want to delete this entire thing and the memories of it out of my life forever… All I want now is to be able to go to the sauna with my dad, with smiles on our faces.

— J

Korean netizens remain utterly shocked and appalled at the frightening experience J went through — and are voicing their concerns with the “weakness” of the South Korean law, especially when it comes to court trials dealing with juveniles. Many also wished for J’s speedy recovery from the assault and the trauma.

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  • “I can’t believe things like this happen in this day and age. The culprits need to pay for what they did.”
  • “Can we please fix the law so that these guys will be fully tried and face their consequences? They’re out there doing what gangs do…”
  • “What a bunch of monsters… Their heads are so full of sh*t that they can’t think of anything better to do with their lives.”
  • “I feel like the restaurant owner could have done a lot more… If it had been me in the situation, I would have called J’s parents and made sure. That would have gotten the police involved a lot faster.”
  • “There are so many psychopathic mad men out there now… I feel like we need to bring back the death sentence.”