South Korea overtook Brazil in 2012 as the plastic surgery capital of the world, with the highest number of cosmetic procedures performed a year.
A young writer named Ashley Perez recently submitted an essay to Buzzfeed about how the country's overwhelming emphasis on the ideal female appearance is so crushing that she quit her teaching job and moved back to America.
Perez, who identifies as Cuban, Filipino and Korean-American, discussed how she was constantly made fun of for her "very big" body, "too dark" skin tone and "plain face" features when she was teaching English to fourth-graders in Daegu.
Young women all strive to look the same in South Korea and those who refuse to conform with the use of plastic surgery are singled out and ridiculed to an unbearable extreme.
"In my case, I was too tall, too fat, and too dark — traits that are not typically considered beautiful by Korean standards," she wrote. "In many ways, being partially Korean actually made my experience more difficult than that of my foreign white friends."
It has even been revealed that double eyelid surgery, a procedure that creates a Caucasian-like crease most Asian women aren't born with, is now as common as going to the dentist in South Korea.
Perez recalls watching a fellow teacher "starve herself" on a strict diet and seeing students receive leaflets advertising plastic surgery as they left school.
One young student was bullied because of her dark skin, getting called "The Mayor of Africa" by her peers.
When Perez would go to make-up stores, sales assistants would tell her that her skin was too dark for most products to work. She struggled to find clothes that fit her because South Korea's single "free size" clothing was much too small.
"Whereas in the United States I’m smaller than the average woman — size 8 bottoms, medium tops, and a size 8.5 shoe — in Korea, I truly felt like a whale," she wrote.
20% of women between the ages of 19 and 49 living in the capital city of Seoul admitted to going under the knife. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, the most popular surgical procedures include double eyelid surgery, lipoplasty and nose jobs.
"I think South Korea has a very rigorous and narrow definition of beauty because we’re an ethnically homogenous society and everyone looks pretty much the same," said Joo Kwon, the founder of JK Plastic Surgery Center - one of the country's largest clinics.
But Perez didn't want to look like everyone else and refused to have plastic surgery. She moved back to America because she was "sick of feeling of ugly in a country that was once home to my ancestors."