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Squid Game's not-so-subtle message about capitalism

The dystopian horror Squid Game has gotten international attention for its focus on economic inequality. But UCLA’s Suk-Young Kim explains that this globally relatable show is also uniquely Korean in its approach.
Lee Jung-Jae stars in Squid Game, a new Netflix series in which the debt-ridden must compete in children's games for a cash prize at the risk of being killed. (Netflix)

Netflix executives say the Korean dystopian horror Squid Game, which portrays the inequality of capitalism, is on track to be their most successful show of all time. And it should hardly be a surprise that people are hungry for this content; the pandemic has exacerbated a global wealth gap.

The wealth of the planet's billionaires grew by 54 per cent, or $4 trillion US, in the first year of the pandemic, according to the Institute for Policy Studies. Meanwhile, Canada lost nearly two million jobs in April 2020 alone amid the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

But it's also a very Korean show in its cultural references and how it portrays inequality. The participants in the game are dressed in Korean gym-class track suits and compete in a series of uniquely Korean children's games; one of the challenges they face involves a popular Korean candy. 

Prof. Suk-Young Kim of the University of California – Los Angeles explains that, while the premise is felt globally, this show is also a unique product of South Korea's own cultural anxieties and economic disparities.

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