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How Netflix’s Squid Game Reflects South Korea’s Real-Life Debt Trap

Many small enterprise house owners in South Korea recognise themselves within the cash-strapped characters of the wildly standard Netflix drama ‘Squid Recreation’, who vie desperately for an opportunity to win $38 million (roughly Rs. 285 crores), exposing a debt entice that’s all too acquainted.

Nearing retirement at 58, Yu Hee-sook paid off her money owed way back, however nonetheless will get calls from assortment businesses threatening to grab her financial institution accounts, because the loans obtained securitised and bought to traders with out her data.

“In Korea, it is like the top of the world when you develop into a credit score delinquent,” mentioned Yu, who obtained by on small jobs, akin to writing for film magazines, through the 13 years it took to repay the money owed she incurred over a film that flopped in 2002.

“All I wished was possibilities to repay debt, however banks do not allow you to earn cash,” added Yu, who feels trapped in an unforgiving life-long ordeal, identical to the 456 sport present contestants of the ‘Squid Recreation’.

Whereas foreigners might affiliate South Korea with the boyband BTS and modern Samsung smartphones, the drama factors to a darkish flipside of rising private borrowing, the very best suicide charge amongst superior nations, and the rarity of getting freed from debt.

Document family borrowing is fuelling non-public funding and housing progress, however unforgiving social mores about debt typically blur the road between private and enterprise loans, burdening those that run small companies.

Private bankruptcies soared to a five-year excessive of fifty,379 final yr, court docket filings present.

The proportion of these falling behind on multiple sort of private debt fee has risen steadily to succeed in 55.47 % by June from 48 % in 2017, figures from the Korea Credit score Data Companies present.

“If Donald Trump was a Korean, he most likely could not have develop into the president, having been bankrupted many occasions,” mentioned a lawyer in Seoul, who specialises in private chapter.

“In america, company debt is extra separated from private debt.”

An insufficient social security internet for small entrepreneurs and the dearth of a rehabilitation programme for failures spell dangers that might drive some South Koreans determined, and banks typically ignore a five-year restrict to destroy insolvency information.

“Attributable to conventional practices within the banking business, enterprise house owners in South Korea face excessive probability of taking the debt burden from the enterprise they run,” mentioned chapter decide Ahn Byung-wook.

Banks typically demand that enterprise house owners stand as joint surety for the agency’s borrowing, a observe the federal government banned for public monetary establishments in 2018, though three house owners advised Reuters some suppliers persist.

Candidates for enterprise loans who’ve poor credit score rankings or a historical past of default want ensures from state-run monetary establishments in South Korea.

“Culturally, failed entrepreneurs are socially stigmatised, so beginning over is difficult, as individuals do not belief them,” added Ahn, who has spent 4 years on the Seoul Chapter Courtroom.

“On high of that, those that file private chapter face a protracted listing of restrictions on employment.”

The numbers of South Korea’s self-employed rank among the many world’s highest, forming 1 / 4 of the job market, making it susceptible to downturns. A central financial institution research in 2017 confirmed that simply 38% of such companies survive three years.

Nonetheless, as financial prospects dwindle, with South Koreans chasing fewer good jobs amid surging house costs, many are betting that hypothesis is the one path to wealth, and have taken on extra debt than ever to purchase shares and different belongings.

Family borrowing is roughly equal to GDP at a report KRW 1,806 trillion ($1.54 trillion or roughly Rs. 11,501 crores) within the June quarter.

“The federal government encourages startups however they do not care for the failed companies,” mentioned Ryu Kwang-han, a 40-year outdated entrepreneur who exited the debtor rehabilitation programme in 2019 however nonetheless struggles to get loans.

“How is that this completely different from ‘Squid Recreation’ if there is no second possibilities?”

The worldwide sensation has been watched by 142 million households since its September 17 debut, the world’s largest streaming service has mentioned, serving to Netflix so as to add 4.38 million subscribers.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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