How Do South Koreans Feel About ‘Squid Game’? It’s Complicated

From Espresso Prince to Jewel within the Palace to Crash Touchdown on You and numerous different titles, Korean dramas have captivated worldwide audiences for many years. However none have ever achieved the ubiquity of Squid Sport, which shot to Netflix’s primary spot in 90 international locations inside 10 days of its release this September. Just a few weeks later, it turned the streaming platform’s most-watched series, overtaking Bridgerton.

You’d suppose, given all this, that Squid Sport could be well-received on its residence turf too—particularly since South Korea is the birthplace of scary exhibits like Candy Dwelling and Kingdom, in addition to stunning, suspenseful movies reminiscent of Alive, Prepare to Busan, Parasite, and Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy. However the reality is extra sophisticated than that. Because it seems, South Korean viewers are sharply divided over the present.

Apparently, the identical qualities that made Squid Sport an immediate hit with non-Korean audiences could assist clarify the comparatively lukewarm response from South Korea. In a rustic the place quite a few residents have been uncovered to Japanese movies and manga in addition to Korean webtoons, the survival-game genre feels all too familiar. Squid Sport detractors have additionally lambasted the Ok-drama for being overly graphic, with some expressing regret at having watched the sequence in any respect. Pia Youn, a tutor based mostly in Busan, says that whereas she loved the sequence, a lot of her pals “didn’t just like the content material as a result of it was too violent for his or her tastes,” including that she thought the present’s depiction of the evil, egocentric aspect of human nature “was actually repulsive to some Koreans.”

Different native viewers have complained that Squid Sport’s plot felt fairly predictable, with situations and characters that have been reminiscent of other K-dramas: a protagonist who isn’t sensible and doesn’t have a lot however nonetheless wins ultimately due to his kindheartedness; a sibling who units out in quest of his long-lost brother, solely to seek out him proper when he’s about to die; two lifelong pals who struggle one another to the demise, however find yourself breaking into tears and reconciling on the final minute. Youthful Koreans, especially those in their 20s, have denounced among the present’s scenes and dialogue for being misogynistic (with some even calling for a boycott of the series) and have criticized the present’s portrayal of North Korean defectors, migrant employees, and the aged as outdated—arguing that Squid Sport did not reflect the progress that South Korea had made in its therapy of those marginalized teams since 2008, when the script was conceived.

Many additionally take subject with the emotionally charged scenes within the present, viewing them as excessively sentimental and melodramatic—a attribute often known as shinpa in Korean, which is commonly interpreted to imply “tearjerker.” Some worldwide viewers have cited “Gganbu,” the present’s emotional sixth episode, as their favorite. However many Koreans, who felt its scenes have been too weepy and excessive, panned it as a basic instance of shinpa: “Ok-shinpa is what foreigners love essentially the most. In the meantime, we [Koreans] who’re used to Ok-shinpa discover it cringeworthy and have been criticizing it,” mentioned one commenter on an online forum.

That mentioned, Dal Yong Jin, a communications professor at Simon Fraser College, explains that some Koreans—particularly older generations—favored the present’s shinpa side. “Shinpa truly helps the success of the sequence, each nationally and globally,” he tells me in an e-mail. “For Koreans who’re of their higher 40s, 50s, and 60s, it is a point of interest [that attracts them], and for international audiences, this type of shinpa is comparatively new and even unique.… Nevertheless, youthful generations [of Koreans] who didn’t expertise extreme historic moments just like the Korean Struggle, the Vietnam Struggle, and the 1997 IMF disaster, and dwell with digital applied sciences don’t perceive [this].”

Koreans acknowledge the factor of shinpa, in addition to among the present’s scenes, traces, and character dynamics (a lot of that are answerable for creating shinpa within the first place), as Ok-drama clichés. But according to Yoo Kyung-sun of the Korean day by day Kyunghyang Shinmun, some native critics have written that “for abroad audiences, these attributes truly made Squid Sport really feel like a ‘contemporary and authentic thriller,’” and turned out to be promoting factors for the present exterior of Korea. | How Do South Koreans Really feel About ‘Squid Sport’? It’s Difficult


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