- Fernando Duarte
- BBC International Department
The Korean TV series “Squid Game” can be said to be one of the most popular TV series broadcasted by the network streaming media Netflix. After going online, it has become the most watched TV series in 90 countries, and its success has also allowed the outside world to watch it. To the multiple status quo of Korean society.
Describing debt-ridden contestants participating in life and death games one after another in order to win huge prizes, “Squid Game”, in addition to the exciting plot, is also praised for faithfully presenting the current state of South Korea’s society.
Prior to this, the Korean movie “Parasite” (parasite upper class) was also acclaimed for showing the huge gap between rich and poor families in South Korea. It became the first non-English film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. The film won a total of five Oscars. Awards, including best director Bong Joon-ho.
Many foreign audiences, especially those in Western countries, may not have a good understanding of the social issues facing South Korea in the past, but now that Korean film and television works have entered mainstream Western media, many people have learned about Korean society through TV dramas.
(This article may contain spoilers)
According to the “Global Gender Gap” survey conducted by the World Economic Forum in 2021, South Korea ranks 102nd in the global gender equality evaluation.
“Squid Game” also reflects the conservative culture of the low status of women in Korean society. The investment banker Cao Shangyou, one of the characters and game players in the play (No. 218), has repeatedly tried to prevent female players from being responsible for group tasks.
However, the description of female characters in “Squid Game” has also been criticized by the outside world.
In the play, a female player in the play had sex with another male player and joined his team in order to survive and win a chance, and was finally abandoned by the male player.
“Squid Game” screenwriter and director Huang Dong Hyuk denies that the show is suspected of discriminating against women when describing female characters. In an interview with the “Korea Ilbo”, he said that the characters in the play are purely fictitious, and each character’s individual behavior is a response to the “worst case”.
What happened to the defectors
“Squid Game” also touched on the widespread defector problem in Korean society. The player number 067 is a defector. After she fled to South Korea, she worked as a pickpocket to make a living, reflecting the plight of defectors after they arrived in South Korea.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1,000 defectors went to South Korea every year. Although the South Korean government has some resettlement plans to assist defectors, many of the defectors fell into living difficulties after arriving in South Korea, and were even discriminated against and discriminated by compatriots in the South. Suspect.
The player number 067 also tried to hide her identity in the play. She imitated her southern accent, hoping to win a prize to bring her family members who failed to defect from North to South Korea to reunite. She only regained her northern accent when she was speaking with her younger brother.
According to the United Nations Human Development Index (Human Development Index) rankings, South Korea ranks 23rd, which is higher than France, Italy, and Spain. If you think that South Korea does not have a poverty problem, you can be forgiven for it.
However, the protagonist of “Squid Game”, player Cheng Qixun, number 456, is an unemployed auto worker who is too poor to afford his daughter’s birthday gift. He was laid off because of the reorganization of the auto factory. He started his own business twice and failed in business. Avoid the violence of loan sharking all day long.
Because of loss of work, business failure, poverty and poverty, his wife also took her daughter away from him. After remarrying, he plans to move to the United States with his new husband. He decided to take the risk and take part in the game because he did not want to lose his daughter and tried to reverse his poor life. The experience is the epitome of many unemployed workers in South Korea.
The problem of uneven distribution of wealth in South Korea is becoming more and more serious. The 20% of the population with the highest income in the country has a net wealth of 166 times that of the 20% with the lowest income in the country.
Figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that before the new crown epidemic, 17% of South Korea’s more than 51 million people lived below the poverty line.
The small living environment in South Korea is also a big problem. Many people in the city live in small spaces, and it is very common for a family of several generations to live in the same apartment.
South Korean household debts are also getting higher and higher, with rising housing prices, ordinary people’s lives are getting more and more difficult.
Exploitation of immigrants
The player Ali, number 199 of “Game of Squid”, is a Pakistani foreign worker. He was injured in an industrial accident and was in a difficult situation due to arrears of medical fees and wages by his Korean employer.
Pakistan is not the country with the largest number of foreign workers in South Korea, but Ali’s role has brought out the problem of foreign migrant workers faced by South Korean society. Many foreign migrant workers like him have been treated unfairly in South Korea but have nowhere to seek help.
Human rights groups say that although the South Korean government has passed many bills to protect migrant workers in the past 20 years, foreign migrant workers still face many serious problems in South Korea.
Political and business scandal
The player No. 218, Sang Woo, is the protagonist of the story, the player No. 456, Cheng Qixun’s childhood playmate. He was admitted to the top Seoul National University and became an investment banker. And bear huge debts.
This also reflects the corruption, corruption and other scandals that have continued to occur in South Korea’s political and business circles over the years.
In 2016, South Korea’s first female president, Park Geun-hye, was impeached and stepped down in a scandal involving Choi Sun-sil’s cronies, which was the biggest scandal in South Korea in recent years.
The delicate relationship with China
The only thing about China in “Game of Squid” is that the mother of the North Korean defector player No. 067 was detained on the way to South Korea via China.
China is an ally of North Korea, so its relationship with South Korea is very delicate.
The green sportswear worn by the players in the “Squid Game” drama was also accused of being similar to the sportswear worn by the actor Wu Jing in the 2019 Chinese movie “Teacher Good”, causing Chinese and Korean netizens to accuse each other of plagiarism.
Netflix has not yet opened its service in China, but there are already many websites in China with Chinese subtitles playing illegally. The South Korean ambassador to China said earlier that there are currently more than 60 websites in China that illegally broadcast “Squid Game”, which again highlights cultural and intellectual property issues.
In addition, “Squid Game” related peripheral products have also become popular online products in China, including green sportswear and symbolic masks and clothing. A “Squid Game” puff shop has also appeared in Shanghai.
In the play, the player must peel off various shapes on the thinly pressed puff, and must maintain the integrity of the puff without breaking.
Many “pumpling challenges” have appeared on the social media TikTok. Creators try to make puffs on their own, and extrude patterns such as squares, triangles, and circles on them, and then peel off various shapes after cooling.
In “Squid Game”, players who do not have a complete peeling shape or broken graphics will be eliminated and killed. From the popularity of sugar games, it can be seen that the Korean film and television culture is expanding its influence globally.