The Netflix hit Netflix movie “Squid Game”, a dystopian vision in a divided society, blends tight plots, social allegory, and uncompromising violence to make the South Korean cultural phenomenon that has gone global.
It features South Korea’s most marginalized, including a migrant worker who is deeply in debt and a defector from North Korea. They compete in traditional games for children to win $45.6 billion ($38 million) under mysterious circumstances.
Losing players are also killed.
It has been wildly popular all over the globe because of its juxtaposition between innocent childhood pastimes, and their final consequences. This is combined with high production values as well as a sumptuous set design.
The top Netflix executive stated that there was a “very good chance” it would be the company’s biggest ever show within days of its debut.
It’s the latest example of South Korea’s ever-growing influence on popular culture. This is epitomized in K-pop sensation BTS, and the Oscar-winning movie “Parasite”.
Critics claim that the show’s themes, and critique of capitalism, are universally relevant regardless of its Korean setting. This is doubly true with the coronavirus pandemic which has exacerbated global inequalities.
Sharon Yoon, a Korean Studies professor at the University of Notre Dame in America, stated that “the growing tendency to prioritize profits over the wellbeing of individuals” is a “phenomenon we witness in capitalist society all over the globe.”
In February, Netflix announced that it will spend $500 million on films and series made in South Korea.
Ted Sarandos, the company’s co-CEO, stated that “over the past two years, the world has fallen in love with incredible Korean contents, made in Korea, and watched by people around the world on Netflix.”
“Our strong commitment to Korea is evident. He said that we will continue to collaborate and invest in Korean storytellers in a variety of formats and genres.”
South Korea’s history is marred by poverty, war, and authoritarian governments. Artists have responded by exploring power, violence, and social issues.
This has led to a vibrant cultural scene, whose many forms have attracted ever more foreign audiences over time.
K-dramas was initially hugely popular among Asian TV audiences. This was before South Korean cinema received awards at European festivals. K-pop had huge fan bases all over the world and “Parasite”, a Korean-language film, became mainstream.
The Oscar-winning Oscar-nominated comedy by Bong Joon-ho is a vicious satire on the growing gap between rich and poor. It explores the meaning of poverty today in the 12th largest economy.
Hwang Donghyuk, director of “Squid Game”, finished his script a decade before investors refused to fund it.
Previous works by the filmmaker have addressed themes such as intercountry adoption, sexual abuse, and disability. They are all loosely inspired by real-life events.
The Renewed TV Series, his first, refers to several traumatizing experiences collectively that have shaped South Korea’s psyche, including the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2009 layoffs of Ssangyong Motor. Both of these events saw people taking their own lives.
Vladimir Tikhonov from the University of Oslo told AFP that South Korea was a rapidly becoming unequal society.
He said that social mobility was “much less possible” than it was before 1997. “The trauma of deepening inequalities… has spilled onto the screens.”
Netflix allows you to watch the show in subtitled and dubbed versions in many languages. This expands your audience.
Brian Hu, a film professor from San Diego State University, in the United States, stated that the movie was loved in nearly 100 countries, which is evidence that it wasn’t just for Western audiences.
He told AFP that Western audiences have always associated poverty with foreign media. It’s become a way to look down on the backward rest of the world.”
“The singularity of ‘Parasite” and ‘Squid Game is that, while they depict poverty and class inequalities, they do so in a way which reflects Korea’s technical cinematic modernity.”