“Squid Game,” a brutal Netflix survival drama about determined adults competing in lethal youngsters’s video games for an opportunity to flee extreme debt, hit somewhat too near residence for Lee Chang-keun.

The present has captivated world audiences since its September debut on its solution to turning into Netflix’s greatest hit ever. It has struck uncooked nerves at residence, the place there’s rising discontent over hovering private debt, decaying job markets and stark revenue inequalities worsened by monetary crises in the previous twenty years.

In the dystopian horrors of “Squid Game,” Lee sees a mirrored image of himself in the present’s protagonist Seong Gi-hun, a laid-off autoworker dealing with a damaged household and battling fixed enterprise failures and playing issues.

“Squid Game” is Netflix’s greatest non-English language hit and is on observe to turn into the platform’s greatest present ever.


Seong will get crushed by gangster collectors into signing off his organs as collateral, however then receives a mysterious supply to play in a collection of six conventional Korean youngsters’s video games for a shot at profitable $38 million.

The South Korea-produced present pits Seong towards lots of of different financially distressed gamers in a hyperviolent competitors for the last word prize, with losers being killed at each spherical.

It is elevating disturbing questions on the way forward for one in every of Asia’s wealthiest economies, the place individuals who as soon as crowed concerning the “Miracle of the Han River” now moan about “Hell Joseon,” a sarcastic reference to a hierarchical kingdom that dominated Korea earlier than the twentieth century.

“Some scenes were very hard to watch,” stated Lee, a employee at South Korea’s Ssangyong Motors who struggled with monetary difficulties and melancholy after the carmaker laid him and a pair of,600 different staff off whereas submitting for chapter safety in 2009.

After years of protests, courtroom battles and authorities intervention, Lee and lots of of different Ssangyong employees returned to work in current years. But not earlier than a spate of suicides amongst co-workers and relations who have been plunged into monetary distress.

“In ‘Squid Game,’ you see characters scrambling to survive after being laid off at work, struggling to operate fried chicken diners or working as ‘daeri’ drivers,” who receives a commission for driving drunk individuals residence in their very own automobiles, Lee stated. “That reminded me of my co-workers who died.”

Lee stated he and his colleagues struggled to search out work and have been backlisted by different auto corporations that thought-about them militant labor activists.

Critics have claimed that the translations from Korean for other subtitles in other languages have watered down the cultural significance of the show.

Critics have claimed that the translations from Korean for different subtitles in different languages have watered down the cultural significance of the present.


A 2016 report by Korea University medical researchers stated at the very least 28 laid-off Ssangyong employees or their kinfolk died of suicide or extreme well being issues, together with these linked to post-traumatic stress dysfunction.

“Squid Game” is one in every of many South Korean exhibits impressed by financial woes. Its darkish story of inequality and sophistication has drawn comparisons with Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning “Parasite,” one other pandemic-era hit with gorgeous visuals and violence exposing the underside of South Korea’s financial success story.

Netflix tweeted Wednesday that “Squid Game” has turn into its greatest authentic collection launch after reaching 111 million followers.

South Korea’s speedy rebuilding from the devastation of the 1950-53 Korean War has been spectacular — from Samsung’s emergence as a world expertise big to the immense reputation of Ok-pop and flicks that’s increasing past Asia — although hundreds of thousands of South Koreans now grapple with the darkish facet of that rise.

“Class problems are severe everywhere in the world, but it seems South Korean directors and writers tackle the issue with more boldness,” stated Im Sang-soo, a movie director.

In “Squid Game,” Seong’s troubles hint again to his firing a decade earlier from the fictional Dragon Motors, a nod to Ssangyong, which implies “double dragon.”

Hundreds of employees, together with Lee, occupied a Ssangyong plant for weeks in 2009 to protest the layoffs earlier than being dispersed by riot police who besieged them, assaulted them with batons, shields and water-cannons and dropped liquified tear fuel by helicopter.

"Squid Game" follows a group of adults who compete in deadly games to win prize money.

“Squid Game” follows a gaggle of adults who compete in lethal video games to win prize cash.


That violent standoff injured dozens and is woven into the “Squid Game” narrative. Seong has flashbacks a couple of Dragon coworker killed by strikebreakers whereas organizing fellow recreation individuals to create barricades with dormitory beds to dam murderous sneak night time assaults by extra vicious opponents seeking to remove the competitors.

Ultimately, it is each individual for themselves in a merciless battle royale between lots of of individuals keen to threat even their lives for a shot at releasing themselves from the nightmare of insurmountable money owed.

The present options different crushed or marginalized characters, like Ali Abdul, an undocumented manufacturing unit employee from Pakistan with severed fingers and a boss who refuses to pay him, epitomizing how the nation exploits a few of the poorest individuals in Asia whereas ignoring harmful working circumstances and wage theft.

And Kang Sae-byeok, a pickpocketing North Korean refugee who had identified nothing however tough life on the streets and is determined for cash to rescue her brother from an orphanage and to smuggle her mom out of the North.

Many South Koreans despair of advancing in a society the place good jobs are more and more scarce and housing costs have skyrocketed, engaging many to borrow closely to gamble on dangerous monetary investments or cryptocurrencies.

Household debt, at over 1,800 trillion ($1.5 trillion), now exceeds the nation’s annual financial output. Tough instances have pushed a record-low start charge decrease as struggling {couples} keep away from having infants.

Squid Game’s world success is hardly a trigger for pleasure, Se-Jeoung Kim, a South Korean lawyer based mostly in Poland, wrote in a Seoul Shinmun newspaper column.

“Foreigners will come to you, saying they too watched Squid Game with fascination, and may ask whether Ali’s situation in the drama could really happen in a country that’s as wealthy and neat as South Korea, and I would have nothing to say,” she stated.

Kim Jeong-wook, one other Ssangyong employee who spent months with Lee perched atop a chimney at a Ssangyong manufacturing unit in 2015, demanding the corporate to rehire the fired employees, stated he could not watch Squid Game after episode one.

“It was too traumatic for me,” he stated.