“Dropping Unapologetic Truth Bombs with Squid Game”
By: Seth B. Sasuman │Staffer | Grade 10-St. John Paul II
It seems Korea has a liking for unsettling murder stories, with their newest addition to the roster of Korea Netflix hits, comes Squid Game. A fun game show where the contestants are people who have nothing to lose, except their lives! The trail through 6 different popular Korean child games with the twist being that if you lose, you die. But it seems the series is more than just a killing survival game, it follows the same “Bong Joon-Ho-Esque” style with underlying tones about capitalism, social hierarchy, and poverty.
Spoiler Alert! Heavy spoilers for the entire series, if you plan to watch Squid Game, stop reading, okay? Okay. From the very first 30 minutes of the series, you can already see its message of poverty. A great example of this is the ddakji game with Seong Gi-hun, our main character. He meets a mysterious man while waiting for his train home and the man convinces him to play a famous Korean game called “ddakji”. The objective is that the player has to slam an object, in this case, thick paper, and flip over their opponent’s object, every time Gi-hun wins he gains 100,000 won (estimated worth 4,300 PHP), and if he loses he needs to pay the man the same amount of money.
With nothing to lose, he plays first and doesn’t manage to flip the paper, but the mysterious man wins on his turn. Gi-hun tells the man that he has no money, so the man changes the rules so that instead of needing to pay 100k won he just needs one slap. It then goes on to become a slap-fest with Gi-hun continuously losing and his cheeks getting redder and redder, then after a few more slaps Gi-hun finally wins and gains 100k Won.
This may seem like a huge win to Seong Gi-hun but in reality, he was played. Just like him, we are controlled by those who have the money continuously overworked and “slapped” each day until the next paycheck. We may get money and compensation but who is really winning?
It isn’t just an undertone but the series and even the producer himself, Hwang Dong-Hyuk, actively shows the hardships of poverty and capitalism. He stated during an online press interview that he started his script between 2008 and 2009, he didn’t have much money as he didn’t have any films he was working on and had to take loans in order to fulfill his family’s expenses. He spent his free hours reading comics in manga shops that have the killing game aspect such as Battle Royale and Liar Game. Unfortunately, his idea was not appealing to the market and he had to put the script on the shelf. Then in 2018, he was able to stumble across it again and the rest is history.
All in all, Squid Game shows how in reality we are all just pawns in the rich man’s chess, as they watch us mercilessly fight for our lives just for money, they inevitably get richer and richer while we all fall into the hands of poverty. The squid game teaches us that for as long as we do not initiate changes in how society works, we will all be in a perpetual cycle of exploitation. The show speaks volumes regarding the chilling manifestations of social wealth disparities and tells the story in a dark, twisting manner that can make the great Bong Joon-Ho proud.