Netflix’s megahit Squid Game makes history at Emmy Awards

Published Tue, Sep 13, 2022 · 02:29 PM

Netflix’s Squid Game made history as the first foreign-language drama to win top honours at the television industry’s Emmy Awards. 

Creator Hwang Dong-hyuk won for outstanding directing and Lee Jung-jae, who played the main character in the South Korean drama, garnered the Emmy for best actor in a drama series. 

“I truly hope Squid Game won’t be the last non-English series to be here at the Emmys,” Hwang said after receiving his award. 

The Korean drama earned 14 nominations, competing against the eventual best drama winner HBO’s Succession. The megahit followed the success of South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s Oscar-winning movie Parasite in 2020 and Minari’s South Korean actress Yoon Yuh-jung winning the Academy Award for best supporting actress in 2021. 

Both Parasite and Minari featured the theme of inequality and ill-treatment of society’s minorities. Parasite, for example, tells the story of a poor family whose members scheme to secure jobs in a wealthy household by inflating their qualifications and pretending they’re not related. The Squid Game similarly follows more than 400 deeply indebted people who play a series of deadly children’s games to win a fortune for the amusement of a few super-rich VIPs.

The South Korean drama captivated international audiences by reflecting on some of the darker sides of its society – including its treatment of North Korean defectors, migrant workers, divorcees, unemployed and those with mental health issues. The problems reflected in the drama echoed across the globe as loose monetary policies and, more recently, a pandemic-driven rush for real estate, pushed up home prices internationally. 

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It was also Netflix’s biggest launch ever. The series cost US$21 million to produce and went on to be watched more than 1.65 billion hours in just 4 weeks. It remained one of the top shows on Netflix for months.

The series boosted the popularity of Korean content worldwide and prompted global players including Walt Disney Co, Apple and Warner Media to invest in local-language titles and original series to lure subscribers. The majority of Netflix customers are international, which means the company will increase its investment in foreign-language shows relative to its investment in English. 

Bucket Studio, which holds a stake in the agency representing Lee, jumped as much as 12 per cent in Seoul trading, the biggest gain since Aug 8. BLOOMBERG

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