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International hit 'Squid Game' makes its mark on Netflix

October 13, 2021

Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers for the first and second episodes of "Squid Game." 

"Squid Game," or 오징어 게임, is slated to become one of the most-watched shows ever on Netflix and is one of the most popular shows out right now. 

The nine-episode series, which takes place in South Korea, follows the life of a man named Seong Gi-hun who is addicted to gambling, has a daughter with a woman he is divorced from and a mother in dire need of surgery. 

Gi-Hun, played by Lee Jung-jae, is then approached by a man who offers to play ddakji, a children’s game that involves flipping over your opponent’s piece of paper by slamming your own on top of it. This stranger offers for Gi-hun to play more children’s games for $38 million and then leaves. 

Gi-hun is taken to a facility where he and 455 players, all of whom are buried in debts or are in extreme financial troubles, compete against each other in Red Light, Green Light with a bit of a twist. If you are caught moving after “red light” you die. 

Computer science engineering freshman Brian Han said that he knew the series was going to be violent, but he was still shocked when he saw the first person get killed in the show. 

“The shock factor was still there because I knew they were going to die,” Han said. “But I didn’t know it was going to be that brutal.”

The series starts off with a violent beginning. However, in the second episode, the remaining players vote to leave the facility where the games are being held. Gi-hun and other supporting characters go back to their lives, where they all face significant financial burdens. 

The second episode presents a vital perspective for the show. These characters go back to their everyday lives, after facing down death in the first game, only to realize that perhaps they are better off competing for $38 million dollars. They are willing to take radical action because otherwise, their lives have no chances of improvement.

Advertising management senior and Korean Student Association President Hannah Lee said that "Squid Game" was very similar to the Oscar-winning South Korean film "Parasite." She thought it was a satire on social class, with people who are struggling financially and desperate to get out of their current situation. 

“The fact that the people who are in charge of the game, you know, they are taking advantage of people who are vulnerable, who are desperate,” she said. “I thought it was a more dramatic version of actual reality. People who are poor, it doesn’t matter how dangerous, how dirty, how disgusting or how uncomfortable it is, some people just do anything they can do to make money or support their family. So I thought that the show really portrayed that well.”

Mechanical engineering junior David Shim also thought the show did a good job of illustrating the poverty side of South Korea.

“A lot of people have the ideal image of Korea as like, ‘Everyone’s well off, there’s a lot of high technology and stuff,’” Shim said. “But in reality ... there are people struggling, there’s a lot of homeless people or people in debt.”

Each character in the series is presented with their own unique burdens, but Han says that one character, Abdul Ali is a departure from other Korean shows since most do not portray foreigners, it is mostly Korean actors. 

“This was one of the few big Korean shows that had an Indian actor in it," Han said. "And I think that was a good step in the right direction ... I think just having an Indian actor that speaks Korean shows that yes, there are Indians that live in Korea.”

Lee said she hopes people do not want to just watch "Squid Game" and use it to guide their thinking about South Korea. 

“I think, yeah there is a part in Korea where people are struggling and all that stuff," Lee said. "This does not 100% represent our culture and the things that’s going on in our country."

As for what shows people can watch after "Squid Game," Han, Lee and Shim all recommend if people want to watch something else about social class in South Korea, they should watch "Parasite." For people who want to watch more Korean-language TV shows, Lee also recommends a series called "Reply," and Han recommends "Prison Playbook" and "Hospital Playlist."

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