The inaugural series of the gripping dystopian drama is set in nine episodes. It follows a cast of low-money players who take part in a mysterious competition made up of playground-like games, with 45.6 billion Korean won (£28 million) as prize money. There’s a catch, though: the game has ‘deadly high stakes’. Director Hwang Dong-hyuk describes the show as ‘one gigantic allegory expressing the capitalist society of our time’. As haughty as that may sound, it certainly makes for gritty and compulsive looking.
The show has transformed many of its cast members into global stars practically overnight, including Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-Jun, and South Korean model Jung Ho-yeon, who is 19.6 million Instagram followers since Squid Game’s debut.
The series’ unprecedented success is a vote of confidence for Netflix’s continued investment in foreign language films and shows. The platform now has a dedicated “International Movies” section and more specific categories, including “French Movies & TV” and “K-Dramas” (Korean Dramas).
As for the so-called ‘Korean wave’ – alluding to the worldwide popularity of South Korean culture in recent years; from K-pop, to K-beauty, to K-craft – this week a young Korean boy band star, Kang Seung Yoon, is showing his work in London, in an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery as part of the StART art fair.