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    Squid Game draws from the shared experiences of South Koreans, characters from the director’s life

    The dystopian vision of the squid game sees hundreds of marginalized individuals pitted against each other in traditional children’s games. (Photo Credit: Netflix/AFP)

    The dystopian vision of the squid game sees hundreds of marginalized individuals pitted against each other in traditional children’s games. (Photo Credit: Netflix/AFP)

    Multiple characters in Netflix sensation squid game Its South Korean directors are based on his own life and he believes the theme of economic inequality resonates with audiences around the world.

    Hwang Dong-hyuk’s television debut last month became the streaming giant’s most popular series at launch, garnering at least 111 million viewers.

    Its dystopian vision pits hundreds of marginalized individuals against each other in traditional children’s play—all of whom Hwang grew up in Seoul.

    The winner can earn millions, but the loser gets killed.

    Hwang’s works have consistently and critically responded to social evils, power, and human suffering, and he has based many of its highly flawed yet relatable characters on himself.

    Like Sang-woo, a troubled investment banker squid gameHwang is a graduate of South Korea’s elite Seoul National University (SNU), but struggled financially despite his degree.

    Like Gi-hyun, a laid off worker and an obsessive gambler, Hwang was raised by a widowed mother and the poor family lived in an underground semi-basement dwelling depicted in Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning satire. parasites.

    And it was one of his first experiences abroad that inspired him to create Ali, a migrant worker from Pakistan who was abused and exploited by his Korean employer, he explained. AFP.

    Many of the characters in Netflix sensation Squid Games were based on director Hwang Dong-hyuk's own life.  (Photo Credit: Netflix/AFP)

    Many of the characters in the Netflix sensation Squid Games were based on director Hwang Dong-hyuk’s own life. (Photo Credit: Netflix/AFP)

    “Korea is a very competitive society. I was lucky to survive the competition and get into a good university,” he said.

    “But when I moved to the UK at the age of 24, a white staff member at airport immigration fired me and made discriminatory remarks. I find it really shocking to this day.

    “I think I was someone like Ali then.”

    under the ladder

    Hwang studied journalism at SNU, where he became a pro-democracy activist – and he named the main character in squid game, followed by Gi-hyun, a friend and fellow preacher.

    But by the time he graduated, democracy had been achieved and he didn’t find the answer to “what should I do in the real world”.

    At first, “watching a movie was something I did to kill time”, he said, but after borrowing his mother’s video camera, “I discovered the joy of filming something and showing it to other people.” And it changed my life.”

    His first feature-length film, my father (2007) was based on the true story of Aaron Bates, a Korean adoptee whose search for a biological father eventually leads him to a death row prisoner.

    South Korean director Hwang Dong-hyuk was a noted filmmaker for 10 years before the massive global success of Squid Game.  (Photo Credit: Dong-e Ilbo/AFP)

    South Korean director Hwang Dong-hyuk was a noted filmmaker for 10 years before the huge global success of “Squid Game”. (Photo Credit: Dong-e Ilbo/AFP)

    In 2011, his crime drama silenced — inspired by a real-life sexual abuse case involving disabled children — was a commercial hit, as was his 2014 comedy Miss Nani, partly inspired by his single mother.

    Three years later, the critically acclaimed 2017 period drama Castle Dealt with a 17th-century king of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea besieged during a brutal Chinese invasion.

    squid game Makes reference to the many traumatic collective experiences that shaped the psyche of modern South Koreans, including the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2009 layoff at SsangYong Motor, both of which saw people take their own lives.

    “In the context of the Ssangyong Motor layoff, I wanted to show that in the world we live in today, any normal middle-class person can go to the bottom of the economic ladder overnight,” Hwang said. AFP.

    absurd, strange and unreal

    Jason Becherwais, a professor at Korea Soongsil Cyber ​​University, described Hwang as an “established and well-known filmmaker for over 10 years”, even before the huge global success. squid game.

    He added that he “deals with the issues facing society” as well as “finds ways to entertain his audience”, he said.

    “Hwang is part of a capitalist system and the success of his series means he is benefiting from such a system, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t conflict with its nature,” he said. AFP.

    Arem Jeong, a Korean film expert at the Sichuan University-Pittsburgh Institute, said the director had a history of sparking social debate before the Netflix series came out.

    for one, silenced “addressed injustice, moral corruption, unresolved issues in the Korean justice system, and ultimately inspired audiences to demand legislative reform”, she pointed out. AFP.

    Hwang wrote squid game almost a decade ago, but said investors were reluctant and those who read the script told him it was “very absurd, strange and unreal”.

    But the rise of streaming services has made age-restricted content more commercially viable than cinema audiences, and he returned to the project over the prospect of working with Netflix.

    Nonetheless, he never imagined it would become “the global sensation it is now”.

    Featured in “I think audiences around the world deeply relate to the topic of economic inequality” squid game,” he said, “especially in the time of a global pandemic”.

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