Netflix survival drama ‘Squid Game’ strikes nerve in debt-ridden South Korea


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

The present has captivated world audiences since its September debut on its solution to turning into Netflix’s greatest hit ever. It has struck uncooked nerves at house, 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 battling fixed enterprise failures and playing issues.

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

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

It’s elevating disturbing questions on the way forward for one among Asia’s wealthiest economies, the place individuals who as soon as crowed concerning 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 have been very onerous to observe,” stated Lee, a employee at South Korea’s Ssangyong Motors who struggled with monetary difficulties and melancholy after the carmaker laid him and a pair of,600 different workers off whereas submitting for chapter safety in 2009.

After years of protests, courtroom battles and authorities intervention, Lee and a whole bunch of different Ssangyong employees returned to work in recent times. However not earlier than a spate of suicides amongst co-workers and members of the family who have been plunged into monetary distress.

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

Lee stated he and his colleagues struggled to search out work and have been backlisted by different auto corporations that thought-about them militant labor activists.

A 2016 report by Korea College medical researchers stated no less than 28 laid-off Ssangyong employees or their family members died of suicide or extreme well being issues, together with these linked to post-traumatic stress dysfunction.

“Squid Recreation” is one among 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 gorgeous visuals and violence exposing the underside of South Korea’s financial success story.

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

South Korea’s fast rebuilding from the devastation of the 1950-53 Korean Warfare has been spectacular — from Samsung’s emergence as a world know-how large to the immense reputation of Ok-pop and films that’s increasing past Asia — although tens of millions of South Koreans now grapple with the darkish aspect of that rise.

“Class issues are extreme in all places on the planet, nevertheless it appears South Korean administrators and writers sort out the problem with extra boldness,” stated 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.”

A whole bunch of employees, 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 fuel by helicopter.

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 individuals to create barricades with dormitory beds to dam murderous sneak evening assaults by extra vicious opponents trying to remove the competitors.

Finally, it’s each particular person for themselves in a merciless battle royale between a whole bunch of individuals prepared to danger even their lives for a shot at releasing 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 among the poorest individuals in Asia whereas ignoring harmful working situations and wage theft.

And Kang Sae-byeok, a pickpocketing North Korean refugee who had recognized 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, attractive 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 delivery price decrease as struggling {couples} keep away from having infants.

Squid Recreation’s world 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 may actually occur in a rustic that’s as rich and neat as South Korea, and I might don’t have anything to say,” she stated.

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 employees, stated he couldn’t watch Squid Recreation after episode one.

“It was too traumatic for me,” he stated. | Netflix survival drama ‘Squid Recreation’ strikes nerve in debt-ridden South Korea


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