What's the secret of Squid Game's success?

The Netflix series Squid Game by South Korean director Hwang Dong-hyuk is topping the charts in over 90 countries and has become the streaming giant's most successful series to date. It focuses on a game controlled by a group of super-rich people who pit poor people against each other. The winner stands to win millions in prize money but the losers are executed. Europe's press discusses the success of the series with an eye to child safety issues.

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Jornal i (PT) /

A parable about capitalism

Jornal i emphasises the educational aspects of the series:

“This dystopian, disconcerting and crude drama causes us discomfort by confronting us with situations that shape our everyday behaviour and may prompt us to reflect on the path we have taken and what we really want for ourselves and for those around us. There are those who say that children should not watch the series. I believe the opposite. ... It is a satire about our society, a parable about capitalism, the spirit of the times and the extreme competition we experience every day in all kinds of situations.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Protecting the young takes precedence over profit

El Mundo warns against children having access to the series and calls for appropriate protection for minors:

“Although the streaming giants have developed various tools to prevent minors from accessing content that is inappropriate for their age, it's like building dikes in the sea. ... It should be guaranteed that children grow up as what they are: children. Not by educating them with their backs to reality, but by using controls to adapt the reality to their cognitive abilities. ... Child protection should be the touchstone that prompts government authorities, parents and platforms to reflect together and agree on regulations that truly protect the most vulnerable beyond private benefits.”

Birgün (TR) /

Our reality is even harsher

Squid Game is also very popular in Turkey. Commenting in Birgün, cartoonist Serkan Altuniğne finds this surprising:

“I can understand why people in Western countries are so devoted to the series. For the average person from the West, the events portrayed in the series probably seem ludicrous, but I really don't understand why so many people are watching and discussing it in our country. When I watched it I thought: 'Hey, what's up? Don't people live just like that in this country?' ... Bring the toughest character from Squid Game here and he'll go back as tame as a lamb within two days. He'll get down on his knees and beg for mercy. Such series are not for us.”

France Inter (FR) /

China can only dream of such soft power

South Korea's massive investments in its cultural industry since the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s are paying off now, explains Pierre Haski, a columnist for France Inter:

“Relative to its size the country has a large impact, making it a soft-power giant compared to neighbouring China, whose political rigidity renders it incapable of competing with South Korea's cultural industries in terms of influence. ... South Korea, at the centre of a geopolitically important and explosive area, has managed to find a recipe for a national culture that resonates with the rest of the world. In the 21st century, that is a considerable advantage.”