Image: Poster of Squid Game. Credit: Netflix.
Squid Game 오징어게임, a new Korean drama that depicts a gory survival game, is the first Korean drama to climb to the top spot in Netflix US. The show also took the top spot in South and Central America, Asia (except Japan), and the Middle East.
In Squid Game, 456 down-and-out participants sign up to play a series of children’s games in which the losers die horrifically, to be the sole survivor who wins KRW 45.6b (USD 38m) in the end. Although the setup is similar to other classics of the genre such as The Hunger Games or Battle Royale, Squid Game - directed by Hwang Dong-hyeok 황동혁, best known for his works in Silenced 도가니 (2011) and The Fortress (2017) 남한산성 - delivers an unusual emotional punch as the participants voluntarily decide to play the game.
After the first round of deaths, the players exercise their right to withdraw from the game by majority vote. But later, the players - who include a North Korean refugee and an illegal immigrant whose wages were stolen - return to the game of their own accord because they desperately need the money. Veteran actor Lee Jeong-jae 이정재 stars as the main character Gi-hun, a divorced gambling addict.