The popular show depicts a South Korean society where ‘only money matters’, says a North Korean propaganda site
“The ‘Squid Game’ gained popularity because it exposed the reality of South Korean capitalist culture,” the article said. The show “depicts a world where only money matters – a hell of a horror.”
The story of “Squid Game” revolves around financially strapped adults who play traditional South Korean children’s games on a secluded island for a cash prize of around $40 million. Losers die. The defectors say that the games featured in the “Squid Game” are not widely played in North Korea.
On Wednesday, Netflix said “Squid Game” has attracted 111 million viewers globally since its September 17 debut, surpassing the 82 million who watched “Bridgeton,” making it the company’s first Biggest series ever launched. According to Netflix’s metrics, anyone who watches a show for more than two minutes is considered a viewer.
In an interview late last month, “Squid Game” director, Hwang Dong-hyuk, said he wants the show to examine how the global wealth gap is widening.
“The rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer,” said Mr. Hwang. “It’s a story anyone can relate to.”
North Korea has a love-hate relationship with South Korean pop culture. Many North Koreans have long had access to smuggled USBs, including South Korean pop music, movies, and TV shows, by secretly trading them among friends and family. The defectors say that the consumption of such material is strictly prohibited by the Kim Jong Un regime.
Mr. Kim has acknowledged that South Korean culture is entering his monastery. This spring, he asked his countrymen to use South Korean words borrowed from K-pop and Korean dramas. So-called “antisocial” behavior – such as dressing like South Koreans or watching South Korean television dramas is prohibited – and could even land violators in jail, according to the spy agency in Seoul.
Mr Kim’s campaigners have enjoyed attacking South Korea’s high-profile cultural exports. In March, the Arirang Meri website stated that two popular K-pop groups, BTS and Blackpink, were treated as slaves and endured a “pathetic life” equivalent to being in prison.
In June 2019, North Korean propaganda website DPRK Today said that the Oscar-winning film “Parasite” is making people realize that South Korea’s capitalist system is “a rotten, sick society with a malignant tumor.”
North Korea has long been criticized for its mistreatment of its citizens. In March, the United Nations adopted a resolution condemning the Kim regime’s human rights violations for the 19th year in a row. The US has vowed to hold the regime accountable for its operation of political prison camps as well as other misdeeds.
Outside of pop-culture jabs, North Korea has been expressing greater openness to the South lately. Both Koreas recently reopened a cross-border phone line. Mr Kim, in a speech at a national defense exhibition on Monday, rebuked South Korea for participating in joint military exercises with the US but reiterated that “South Korea is not the target of our armed forces.”
Access to South Korean drama or music varies between rich and poor in North Korea, said Hong Min, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification, a government-funded think tank in Seoul. While wealthy citizens use the market in North Korea to access USBs containing South Korean content, those living on the outskirts have hardly any access, said Mr. Hong, who recently interviewed defectors.
“The Kim regime responds sensitively to South Korean material flowing into North Korea because it affects the minds of Pyongyang’s most economically active population,” Mr. Hong said.
Das Yun at [email protected]