“Squid Game”, South Korean soft-power at its peak

Squid Game, it’s a life-size game where to win, you have to survive. Because over the course of the trials, inspired by the world of childhood, the participants who fail are executed by organizers in fuchsia pink overalls who never show their face. It’s ultra-violent and completely offbeat.

>> “Squid Game”, the dystopian and bloody Korean series, hits the mark on Netflix and worries parents

Squid Game is an allegory that denounces the excesses of capitalism. A universal message that appeals far beyond the South Korean sphere, with unexpected consequences. The series’ brutal worldwide success gave a boost to learning Korean. On Duolingo, which allows you to learn languages ​​online, there were over 76% registered in Great Britain, 40% in the United States. All in the two weeks that followed the release of the series. The scale is not negligible: 8 million people now practice Korean on the platform.

The Oxford Dictionary of the English language added 26 words of Korean origin to its latest edition this week. Among them, “hallyu”, which means “wave”: a word used to describe the success of South Korean entertainment culture around the world. A phenomenon that has existed since the 1990s but it finds its peak with Squid Game.

This global influence which is also illustrated through music and films. Korea’s best face abroad is Parasite, by Bong Joon-ho, Palme d’Or at Cannes, Oscar for best film and best director two years ago. It’s the webtoon, digital comics that defend themselves against Japanese manga. It is especially K-Pop which emerged ten years ago, and whose representatives have become much more than artists. A few weeks ago, members of the BTS group were invited to the UN platform to defend sustainable development in front of the whole world.

This enthusiasm for South Korean culture is first and foremost the consequence of a government strategy. After the economic crisis in 1997, Seoul staked everything on the cultural industries: 500 million dollars paid each year to the Ministry of Culture to stimulate exports. The choice has paid off, especially as South Korea has become the most connected country in the world, giving it a head start.

Without forgetting the know-how of a young generation of entrepreneurs often trained in the United States. Having become the 10th world power, the former dictatorship largely dominates China, unable to do as well. It also takes its revenge on Japan, the former master colonizer of South Korea between 1910 and 1945, which had a bad experience of the “hallyu” at the end of the 2000s. The Korean wave should not fall again. Netflix has announced a plan to invest $ 500 million in series and films produced in South Korea for the year 2021 alone.

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“Squid Game”, South Korean soft-power at its peak

Hank Gilbert