Squid Game: Here’s why the South Korean streaming series is captivating audiences worldwide

Since its premiere on Sept. 17, Netflix’s “Squid Recreation,” has exploded in reputation with Co-CEO Ted Sarandos saying it has a “superb likelihood” of being its hottest sequence ever. An web supplier in South Korea is even suing Netflix to pay for prices from the surge in community visitors and upkeep.

One Canadian professor says the South Korean present is resonating with so many viewers due to how the streaming big has expanded into non-U.S. markets; the rising prominence of South Korean popular culture within the West; and the story’s international themes of inequality and uncertainty.

“‘Squid Recreation’ is constructing on the dramatization of sophistication battle and the big hole in wealth disparity,” Michelle Cho, professor of East Asian Research on the College of Toronto, advised in a telephone interview. “I might say they’re international themes. I feel that they’re tapping into the crises of capitalism which might be skilled by numerous locations all over the world.”

For the uninitiated, the South Korean dystopian horror sequence is about indebted individuals making an attempt to win money by competing in lethal variations of common kids’s video games equivalent to “Purple gentle, inexperienced gentle.” Cho mentioned the present attracts on horror parts that are paying homage to the sequence “Black Mirror,” in addition to “Battle Royale,” a 2000 Japanese thriller which itself went on to encourage “The Starvation Video games” sequence.

Cho mentioned the present is highly-produced and boasts vibrant set designs which gives a visible distinction to the characters’ anxiousness, regardless of residing in a rustic with a sturdy post-war economic system.

“Loads of [them] should not certain that modernization course of has actually yielded a greater place to reside or extra happiness,” Cho mentioned. “South Koreans proper now are very, very involved with the price of life and wealth inequality.”

She mentioned a lot of them really feel too many elements of their lives are hyper-competitive.

“And I feel that questions that Koreans are asking themselves are: ‘Effectively, in what approach is it doable to outlive when the whole lot is a contest?’” she mentioned, including that many staff all over the world probably really feel the identical.

“So it’s prefer it’s drawing on these already present concepts and international tradition and that is what makes it additionally extra interesting and extra present.”

And though the present was filmed in Korean, the streaming platform supply subtitles in 37 totally different languages and voice dubs in 34 languages. And the platform’s technique seems to have paid off, as based on the corporate, 95 per cent of the present’s viewers aren’t in South Korea.


Twitter and TikTok have been set buzzing with memes and clips from the present because it first aired, with Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s international TV head, telling Vulture this has helped drive conversations concerning the present.

“Individuals hear about it, individuals discuss it, individuals adore it, and there is a very social facet to that, which does assist develop the present exterior of what we do,” she advised the outlet final week.

Cho additionally credit the present’s success to Netflix’s push to broaden into markets exterior of the U.S.

That progress has meant the platform has turned to showcasing and producing numerous content material in several markets, to attract in new viewers. She mentioned this consists of reveals such because the Spanish heist crime drama “Cash Heist” or the French thriller thriller “Lupin.”

She mentioned China and South Korea are merely among the newest components of the world feeling Netflix’s push to diversify which started within the early 2010s. The corporate has even arrange two studios simply exterior of Seoul as a solution to create extra native content material there.

“So it was solely a matter of time earlier than a present that was produced exterior of the ‘West’ would have gained traction,” Cho defined, including that the platform’s capabilities itself performed an enormous position. “As soon as one thing begins to pattern, the algorithm will recommend it and it’s a particularly highly effective device that the platform has to focus subscribers’ consideration.”

However Cho additionally believes the present’s success is instantly tied to the rising international prominence of South Korean popular culture prior to now decade by way of cleaning soap operas known as Okay-dramas, Okay-Pop music, and movies equivalent to Bong Joon-ho’s Academy-Award-winning movie “Parasite,” which additionally touched on inequality and sophistication struggles.

“There’s been this actually been a gradual growth of exports of Korean media because the early 2000s, beginning with movie festivals,” she mentioned, noting that because the 2010s, there’s been a concerted effort – particularly on the a part of South Korean authorities – to supply subsidies or tax rebates to media manufacturing studios and promote cultural merchandise and industries, equivalent to movies, tv, gaming and on-line comics known as “webtoons.”

On Netflix’s half, it mentioned in an announcement earlier this yr that it had spent roughly US$700 million on Korean movies and TV reveals between 2015 and 2020

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