Netflix’s blockbuster squid game, a 456-year-old 456 faced with serious debt and financial despair, played a series of deadly children’s games and won $ 38 million in South Korea. I got it.
Ku Young-hyun didn’t have to turn his masked murder guards or competitors face down to cut through his throat like the characters in the show. However, a 35-year-old office worker in Seoul, who watched the “squid game” overnight, said he sympathized with the characters and their struggle to survive in the country’s seriously unequal society.
After losing a stable job and overcoming freelance gigs and government unemployment checks, Kuu said it was “almost impossible to live comfortably on a full-time salary” in a city with rising house prices. rice field. Like many young people in South Korea and elsewhere, Mr. Kuu, like the contestants in the “squid game,” sees fierce competition to grab a shrinking pie slice.
These similarities helped turn the nine-episode drama into an unlikely international sensation. “Squid Game” is currently Netflix’s top-ranked show in the United States and is becoming one of the most watched shows in the history of streaming services. “It’s very likely to be the biggest show ever.” Ted Sarandos, Netflix Co-Chief Executive Officer said at a recent business meeting.
Culturally, the show has its unique visuals, especially the black masks adorned with simple squares and triangles worn by anonymous guards, and the global to Korean children’s games that underpin deadly competition. Triggered online acceptance of curiosity. The recipe for dalgona, a sweet Korean treat at the heart of a particularly tense showdown, has spread through word of mouth.
Like the Hunger Games books and movies, Korean shows captivate the audience with their violent tone, cynical plots, and spoiler attention! — Willingness to kill a fan’s favorite character. But as wealth inequality widens and home prices rise above affordable prices, it is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve prosperity in a nominally rich country, the United States and Western Europe. I also use the feeling that is familiar to people such as.
“The story and issues of the character are very personalized, but they also reflect the issues and reality of Korean society,” Hwang Dong-hyuk, the creator of the show, said in an email. He wrote the script as a movie in 2008, when many of these trends became apparent, but reviewed the script to reflect new concerns, including the effects of the coronavirus. (Netflix Asia Pacific content director Kim Min-young said the company is discussing production for the second season with Huang.)
“Squid Game” is the latest Korean cultural export to gain viewers all over the world by taking advantage of Korea’s deep inequality and opportunity for decline. The Oscar-winning 2019 film Parasite combines a desperate glyphter family with oblivion members of a wealthy family in Seoul. Burning, a hit at the 2018 art house, raised tensions by confronting young deliverers with wealthy rivals and attracting the attention of women.
South Korea grew rapidly after the war and became one of the wealthiest countries in Asia, some economists call its rise a “miracle on the Han River.” But as the economy matured, wealth inequality worsened.
“Korean people once had a collective community spirit,” says Yun Suk-jin, a theater critic and professor of contemporary literature at Chungnam National University. However, the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s undermined the country’s positive growth story, “everyone fought for themselves.”
The country is currently ranked 11th among the members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the world’s wealthiest research group, using the Gini coefficient, a measure of wealth inequality. (The United States is sixth.)
As South Korean families tried to catch up, household debt increased and urged some economists to warn that debt could hinder the economy. Home prices have skyrocketed to the point where affordable homes have become a hot button political topic. During his tenure as President Moon Jae-in, prices in Seoul soared by more than 50%, leading to a political scandal.
Shin Ye-eun, who graduated from college in January 2020, just before the pandemic, said that the squid game exposed the social pressure to succeed in South Korea and the difficulty of achieving it. Said. At the age of 27, she said she spent more than a year looking for a full-time job.
“Recently, it’s really hard for people in their twenties to find a full-time job,” she said.
South Korea also suffers from a sharp decline in births, partly due to the youth’s feeling that children are too expensive.
“In South Korea, every parent wants to send their children to the best school,” Shin said. “To do that, you need to live in the best areas.” To do that, you need to save enough money to buy a house. This is a very unrealistic goal, “I didn’t even calculate how long it would take,” Shin said.
The squid game revolves around Songgi-hoon, a gambling addict in his 40s who has no way of buying the right birthday gifts for his daughter or paying for the medical expenses of his elderly mother. One day he is offered the opportunity to participate in a squid game, a private event run for the entertainment of wealthy individuals. To win the $ 38 million prize, contestants will have to go through six rounds of traditional Korean children’s games. Failure means death.
The 456 contestants speak directly to much of the country’s anxieties. One graduated from Seoul National University, the number one university in the country, and wants to mishandle the customer’s funds. The other is a North Korean defector who needs to take care of his brother and help his mother escape from North Korea. Another character is an immigrant worker whose boss refuses to pay wages.
The characters resonate with young Koreans who have no chance to enter society. Known locally as the “dirt spoon” generation, many are crazy about how to get rich quickly, like cryptocurrencies and lottery tickets. South Korea is one of the largest cryptocurrency markets in the world.
Like the show’s prize money, cryptocurrencies “give people the opportunity to change their lives in an instant,” said office worker Kuu. Mr. Kuu, whose former employer went out of business during the pandemic, said that one of the reasons Koreans are obsessed with making quick money is that it is difficult to make money.
“If the’squid game’was played in real life, how many people would participate,” he said.