The ultra-violent thriller, which sees 456 debt-riddled people competing in a series of children’s games in the hopes of winning enough cash to cure their financial woes, is shaping up to be the streamer’s most popular series ever — an even greater feat considering the series’ viewership grew mostly organically.
“I never thought that a Korean-language show, with a Korean childhood game at its core, would be racing toward being our all-time global number one show,” Minyoung Kim told THR.
“But then I started seeing more and more posts on Instagram and TikTok. And then I watched as Ho-yeon Jung’s (who plays pickpocket Kang Sae-byeok) Instagram following grew from 400,000 to over 14 million in less than a month. And even on LinkedIn, most of my whole feed started to be about Squid Game, which is really rare.”
When asked why this, sometimes deeply disturbing yet always “unturnoffable” show has captivated a global audience’s attention, Kim put it down to a couple of factors.
“Number one, the genre itself is something that has global appeal,” she said.”
“The director also wanted to make sure that even if you don’t already know those very Korean children’s games, the barrier of entry would be low and you could still easily enjoy it. He put a lot of focus into making sure the rules of the games he chose were very simple — and I think this simplicity is a big element of the international success.”
Referencing the beautiful way in which the series is shot, Kim also noted that the whole look and mise-en-scène was something they all made sure would be appealing while always keeping in mind the fact that content that’s able to generate conversation has the best chance of taking off like wildfire.
“Squid Game has a lot of those memorable, meme-able moments that people can play around with, and which drive conversation,” she muses. “So I think that was another factor.”
“But as a creative executive, I think the essence of the show is its commentary on social injustice — class divisions and financial inequality, or even gender-related issues,” Kim concedes.
“These social injustice issues aren’t only Korean — the whole world is struggling with them. These elements made the show resonate strongly outside of Korea as well.”
Interestingly, the series was first presented to Kim and her team as a film, but she worried that the confines of a feature would force them into a corner of trying to fit too many stories into just two hours. Hence, the film version became a series and one that almost bore a different name to the one now on everyone’s lips.
“Squid Game, or ojingeo in Korean, is a real kids’ game here, but not all Koreans actually know it,” Kim explains. “My generation knows it, but my niece’s generation probably wouldn’t. So, initially, we knew we wanted this show to travel but we were worried the title Squid Game wouldn’t resonate because not many people would get it.
“So we went with the title Round Six instead, wanting it to be more general and helpful for telling people what the show is about — there are six rounds to the game.
“But, later, director Hwang Dong-hyuk suggested that maybe we should go back to Squid Game because it’s a unique show and this game is the essence. I think the more authentic title has actually played really well.”
With the resounding success of season one of Squid Game clearly documented, and a finale that certainly leaves the door open for more of the story to be explored, fans are desperate to know if we will be seeing more of the mysterious hooded figures in the future.
“Regarding a season two, we’re still having that conversation with the director and the producer, and hopefully we’ll be able to come back to you with that answer soon,” Kim teased. “So it’s all in the works, but if you think about it, the show only launched less than a month ago. This is just the start.”
Season one of Squid Game is streaming now on Netflix.