Squid Game: What Korean Media’s Contemporary Success Can Teach Us

Thao My editor(vietnam)

456 PLAYERS. 6 GAMES. 45,600,000,000 WON. 1 STANDING.Director Hwang Dong-Hyuk’s Squid Game stands strong in its anti-capitalist message, and its stark display of the real implications of South Korea’s techno-capitalist successes strike a cord to the hearts of people across the world. In its first 28 days of release on Netflix, Squid Game had been seen in 111 million households. This propelled Squid Game to become Netflix’s most-watched series to date, surpassing other in-house titles such as Bridgerton and Stranger Things.

To see Squid Game’s cultural impact, one does not need to look beyond their phone. On every social media, streams of Squid Game inspired content are flowing. From Halloween costumes of hot pink and green to sweat-inducing video game replications of “Red Light, Green Light”, the survival drama show has graduated from the ranks of a mere show to cultural phenomenon. Squid Game’s very own Player 067 gained so much popularity, HoYeon Jung, the actress playing Kang Saebyeok, became the most followed South Korean actress on Instagram despite this being her first foray into acting. Mr. Beast, one of Youtube’s most popular content creators known for money-incentives challenge videos has recently announced and shown a look into a real-life recreation of the show. This 2-million dollar investment into constructing a scale replication of the sets pales in comparison to the economic boost that Squid Game has inadvertently given South Korea.

Time and time again, Korean media has been pushed to the forefront of the news as a spectacle. We’ve seen Korean media lauded throughout the years including Winter Sonata, Boys Over Flowers, Train to Busan, Parasite, and Squid Game is just the next “revolutionary” work to seemingly “magically” appear from the tiny country of South Korea to dominate global screens. But as the long history of great work shows, Squid Game is no miracle.

Instead of praising Squid Game in a vacuum, it is just as important to shift the global narrative towards Eastern media to be as long-standing and capable of making masterpieces as Western contemporaries. Only then can the countless gems of Korean media be appreciated for all it’s worth. Instead of isolating Parasite, we can highlight Director Bong Joon Ho’s career of sharp, insightful films.


Squid Game’s success continues to prod at the narrative that enables foreign films to be separated from their Western contemporaries in accolades such as award shows. It has become a recent point of contention against the existence of the “Academy Award for Best International Film” category in the most prestigious film awards show worldwide, The Oscars. When the amount of Academy Awards that international filmmakers have received is eclipsed by the amount of commemoration given to racist films that feature and award actors in black and yellowface, it is clear that this is a historically rooted issue. An issue wherein Squid Game is just a small part of the solution.


Thao My editor(vietnam)