With the rising popularity of Korean dramas in India, and all over, people are always on the lookout for series and films coming out of the subcontinent. Recently, Netflix’s South Korean series Squid Game has become a global sensation within a month of its release. The show is on track to become the most-watched show on the streaming giant, its actors are receiving global fame and netizens are trending several games shown in the survival drama and playing it themselves. Written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, the series stars an ensemble cast of Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Jung Ho-yeon, O Yeong-su, Anupam Tripathi, Gong Yoo Wi Ha-joon among others.
So how did the 9 episode series create such a huge wave?
What is the show about?
The dystopian series is somewhat a commentary on the economic condition and struggles of the people of South Korea. 456 people, who are crushed with crippling debt and have no way to get back on their feet are approached by a mysterious salesman, who offer them a chance to participate in a game whose winning prize is 45.6 billion South Korean Won. They are taken to a mysterious place, guarded by masked strangers. The first round starts off with a simplistic children’s game and it is announced that the ones failing to cross the finishing line will be eliminated, while the others will be qualified for the next. The people breaking the rules of the games would also be eliminated. So far so good. However, one crucial detail is left out which the participants figure out while playing the game. Here, elimination means death.
On the other hand, a police officer working in Seoul ends up at the mysterious place while looking for his missing brother who had a link to this game.
Why is it gaining so much popularity?
The dystopian show works with several themes and real-life issues like economic crisis, class divide, capitalism, the hustle culture, and most importantly- thinking of one’s survival above anything or anyone. With the game designed in a way to eliminate participants in every stage, it becomes a kill or die situation for them. That brings out the unthinkable in the characters who go to any extent, from manipulating to pushing someone to their death.
It also shows how the entitled elites of the society have no remorse controlling the lives of other people and take pleasure in watching them kill each other. A line in the show says, “You bet on horses. It’s the same here, but we bet on people.”
However, the show doesn’t focus on “poor”, “underprivileged” people as the participants under debt ranges from a gambling addict, a North Korean defector, a foreign worker from Pakistan to a successful businessman and criminals.
The themes along with the strong plot and the ensemble characters were enough for the show to linger in people’s minds for long. However, another factor adding to its widespread popularity is that some of the elements of the show have become a part of our pop culture, and that has happened by the means of social media posts, trends, videos, cosplay and merchandise.
However, this success did not come to them overnight.
Writer Hwang Dong Hyuk’s struggles
The series was rejected by producers and actors for almost a decade and writer Hwang Dong-Hyuk had to go through a survival game of his own before the show became a phenomenon. He had first conceived the series back in 2008 but it was only picked up in 2019. During those years, Dong-Hyuk had to go through a series of struggles that included pitching it to producers and actors who repeatedly turned away from the show. In an interview with Allkpop, he said that people told him the project was weird and unrealistic. He even had to stop writing and sell his laptop for money.
Now, the show is on its way to becoming the most-viewed show on Netflix.