Squid Game and
A Harsh Truth
Of South Korean Society

09-08-2022 Tuesday 09:00 GMT+06:00
Rajeya Sultana


_The Squid Game is one of the most popular series in Netflix history, a South Korean action and television drama series. It premiered worldwide on September 17, 2021, to critical acclaim and international attention.


Netflix subscribes consumed approximately 364 million hours of Red Notice in the first 28 days after the show aired. It is also the top-watched program in 94 countries and attracted more than 142 million member households. Its striking visuals, characters and disturbing study of human nature have also highlighted the reality of life's struggles to audiences around the world.


The nine-episode Korean series centers on a brutal survival game where 456 players, all of whom are deeply in debt and desperate, are lured into a bloodthirsty survival game where they gets a chance to win a six-game series and walk away with 45.6 billion Korean won ($39 million).

According to the most, the Squid Game reflects the intense pressure of South Koreans to achive success and respect, starting from their childhood. While South Korean society still doesn't value true meritocracy, the series highlights the problems that arise in the country's unfair system.


The premise of Squid Game begins with a man named Seonggehoun, a divorced father and indebted gambler who lives with his elderly mother. He was invited to participate in a series of games for a chance to win a large cash prize. After accepting the offer, he was transported to an unknown location where he found himself among 456 players, all of whom are deeply in debt.


In this game, the players have to dressed in green tracksuits, they are kept under constant watch by masked guards in pink jumpsuits, a front man wearing a black mask and black uniform supervises the game.


Players soon discover that the outcome in this game is deatch, where each death adds another 100 million to a potential 45.6 billion grand prize.


Squid Game

The games are simple enough, these are the childhood games that all players grew up playing. Hwang Do-hyuk, the game's director, said in an interview, 'People are attracted by the irony that hopeless grownups risks their lives to win this kis game.'


Western media outlets have drawn comparisons between Squid Game and the 2019 Oscar-winning Korean film Parasite, which highlights wealth inequality and societal injustice.


But according to viewers in East Asia, the show has similarities to the 2014 Japanese film 'As the Gods Will'. Although the series focuses on high school students, it follows a similar storyline and some have even accused Squid of plagiarizing the game.


'As the Gods Will' resembles the traditional children's game 'Red Light, Green Light'. For example, in one of the most famous scenes in the Squid game, a giant robot girl uses her laser eyes to identify players who have lost the game, then kills them.

The ongoing series is directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk. Hwang planned the event based on the financial struggles early in his personal life.


He wanted to write a story that is an allegory of modern capitalist society, depicting an extreme competition based on real life. Hwang wanted to include characters in the game that are the kind of people one would normally meet in real life.


The program was originally conceived during South Korea's 2008 financial crisis, which, over the next decade, created a stark contrast between the survivors and the losers. Among the 38-member countries representing the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, South Korea had the highest suicide rate, with about 24 deaths by suicide per 100,000 deaths.

Laid-off workers at Ssangyong Motors near its factory in Pyeongtaek


According to some, the squid game depicts the brutal suppression of a protest in support of laid-off workers at Ssangyong Motors near its factory in Pyeongtaek, South Korea in 2009.

Police fired liquid teargas from helicopters and fired at striking workers to quell the protests. It was one of the biggest crackdowns on laborers in South Korean history, authorized by the country's then-president Lee Myung-bak.


According to South Korea's education system, a student must progress to middle and then upper secondary school, based on the results achieved in elementary school. Results achieved at an elite high school increase the chances of admission to three of South Korea's most prestigious universities, Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University.


Graduates from these universities (known as S.K.Y) get job opportunities in various quality organizations with little effort, which guarantees a prosperous and established life. But on paper it appears to be an assessment of merit but in reality it is not. Every step of the life journey, including cram school, private tutoring, and travel abroad for cultural and language education, can be made affordable.


Hwang Dong-hyuk, himself an S.K.Y graduate, is now well known for advocating for the underprivileged, using his films to stir up public emotion and discussion.


In an interview he commented, 'I took up filmmaking because I was frustrated by all these unresolved social issues. We can see through films how much we have been changed by the world.'


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