‘Squid Recreation’ strikes nerve in debt-ridden South Korea

'Squid Game': Actors, translator weigh in on subtitle debate

2021-10-13 19:59:15

“Squid Recreation,” a brutal Netflix survival drama about determined adults competing in lethal youngsters’s video games for an opportunity to flee extreme debt, hit a bit too near dwelling for Lee Chang-keun.

The present has captivated international audiences since its September debut on its solution to changing into Netflix’s largest hit ever. It has struck uncooked nerves at dwelling, the place there’s rising discontent over hovering private debt, decaying job markets and stark earnings inequalities worsened by monetary crises up to now 20 years.

Within the dystopian horrors of “Squid Recreation,” Lee sees a mirrored image of himself within the present’s protagonist Seong Gi-hun, a laid-off autoworker dealing with a damaged household and combating fixed enterprise failures and playing issues.

“Squid Recreation” is Netflix’s largest non-English language hit and is on observe to turn out to be the platform’s largest present ever.


Seong will get overwhelmed by gangster collectors into signing off his organs as collateral, however then receives a mysterious provide to play in a sequence of six conventional Korean youngsters’s video games for a shot at profitable $38 million.

The South Korea-produced present pits Seong in opposition to a whole bunch of different financially distressed gamers in a hyperviolent competitors for the last word prize, with losers being killed at each spherical.

It’s elevating disturbing questions on the way forward for one in every of Asia’s wealthiest economies, the place individuals who as soon as crowed in regards to the “Miracle of the Han River” now moan about “Hell Joseon,” a sarcastic reference to a hierarchical kingdom that dominated Korea earlier than the twentieth century.

“Some scenes had been very laborious to look at,” mentioned Lee, a employee at South Korea’s Ssangyong Motors who struggled with monetary difficulties and despair after the carmaker laid him and a couple of,600 different workers off whereas submitting for chapter safety in 2009.

After years of protests, court docket battles and authorities intervention, Lee and a whole bunch of different Ssangyong staff returned to work lately. However not earlier than a spate of suicides amongst co-workers and relations who had been plunged into monetary distress.

“In ‘Squid Recreation,’ you see characters scrambling to outlive after being laid off at work, struggling to function fried rooster diners or working as ‘daeri’ drivers,” who receives a commission for driving drunk folks dwelling in their very own automobiles, Lee mentioned. “That jogged my memory of my co-workers who died.”

Lee mentioned he and his colleagues struggled to seek out work and had been backlisted by different auto firms that thought of them militant labor activists.

Critics have claimed that the translations from Korean for other subtitles in other languages have watered down the cultural significance of the show.

Critics have claimed that the translations from Korean for different subtitles in different languages have watered down the cultural significance of the present.


A 2016 report by Korea College medical researchers mentioned a minimum of 28 laid-off Ssangyong staff or their kin died of suicide or extreme well being issues, together with these linked to post-traumatic stress dysfunction.

“Squid Recreation” is one in every of many South Korean reveals impressed by financial woes. Its darkish story of inequality and sophistication has drawn comparisons with Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning “Parasite,” one other pandemic-era hit with beautiful visuals and violence exposing the underside of South Korea’s financial success story.

Netflix tweeted Wednesday that “Squid Recreation” has turn out to be its largest authentic sequence launch after reaching 111 million followers.

South Korea’s speedy rebuilding from the devastation of the 1950-53 Korean Struggle has been spectacular — from Samsung’s emergence as a world know-how large to the immense reputation of Okay-pop and flicks that’s increasing past Asia — although hundreds of thousands of South Koreans now grapple with the darkish facet of that rise.

“Class issues are extreme all over the place on this planet, however it appears South Korean administrators and writers sort out the difficulty with extra boldness,” mentioned Im Sang-soo, a movie director.

In “Squid Recreation,” Seong’s troubles hint again to his firing a decade earlier from the fictional Dragon Motors, a nod to Ssangyong, which suggests “double dragon.”

Lots of of staff, together with Lee, occupied a Ssangyong plant for weeks in 2009 to protest the layoffs earlier than being dispersed by riot police who besieged them, assaulted them with batons, shields and water-cannons and dropped liquified tear gasoline by helicopter.

"Squid Game" follows a group of adults who compete in deadly games to win prize money.

“Squid Recreation” follows a gaggle of adults who compete in lethal video games to win prize cash.


That violent standoff injured dozens and is woven into the “Squid Recreation” narrative. Seong has flashbacks a few Dragon coworker killed by strikebreakers whereas organizing fellow recreation contributors to create barricades with dormitory beds to dam murderous sneak night time assaults by extra vicious opponents seeking to get rid of the competitors.

Finally, it is each particular person for themselves in a merciless battle royale between a whole bunch of individuals prepared to threat even their lives for a shot at liberating themselves from the nightmare of insurmountable money owed.

The present options different crushed or marginalized characters, like Ali Abdul, an undocumented manufacturing unit employee from Pakistan with severed fingers and a boss who refuses to pay him, epitomizing how the nation exploits a few of the poorest folks in Asia whereas ignoring harmful working circumstances and wage theft.

And Kang Sae-byeok, a pickpocketing North Korean refugee who had identified nothing however tough life on the streets and is determined for cash to rescue her brother from an orphanage and to smuggle her mom out of the North.

Many South Koreans despair of advancing in a society the place good jobs are more and more scarce and housing costs have skyrocketed, engaging many to borrow closely to gamble on dangerous monetary investments or cryptocurrencies.

Family debt, at over 1,800 trillion ($1.5 trillion), now exceeds the nation’s annual financial output. Robust occasions have pushed a record-low beginning charge decrease as struggling {couples} keep away from having infants.


Squid Recreation’s international success is hardly a trigger for satisfaction, Se-Jeoung Kim, a South Korean lawyer based mostly in Poland, wrote in a Seoul Shinmun newspaper column.

“Foreigners will come to you, saying they too watched Squid Recreation with fascination, and will ask whether or not Ali’s scenario within the drama might actually occur in a rustic that’s as rich and neat as South Korea, and I’d don’t have anything to say,” she mentioned.

Kim Jeong-wook, one other Ssangyong employee who spent months with Lee perched atop a chimney at a Ssangyong manufacturing unit in 2015, demanding the corporate to rehire the fired staff, mentioned he could not watch Squid Recreation after episode one.

“It was too traumatic for me,” he mentioned.

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Supply by [tellusdaily.com]