Squid Game creator Hwang Dong-hyuk spent 10 years trying to get it made

There are no spoilers for Squid Game! Please do not post spoilers in the comments!
On Monday, when Instagram and Facebook were down and it seemed like the tech world was ending, I ate some Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough and watched the second half of Squid Game. I’m not going to post spoilers at all because I know not all of you have watched it. Squid Game, a South Korean nine episode series about a ruthless reality competition show where losers are murdered, was the number one show on Netflix in every country last week. It’s still top in most countries and is about to become the most popular Netflix series of all time. While the show is shocking, it’s also compelling and addictive. You would think that would come through in the script and premise, which is just brilliant. However the creator, Hwang Dong-hyuk, spent ten years trying to get the show made. He was so broke he was living with family and had to sell his laptop for cash!

While Squid Game might be on track to become Netflix’s biggest ever show, the Korean drama was previously rejected by local studios for a decade before being picked up by Netflix.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, creator Hwang Dong-hyuk first thought up the idea for Squid Game over ten years ago. At the time, the film director and screenwriter was living with his mother and grandmother and had to halt on scriptwriting at one point as he was forced to sell his $675 laptop for money.

Local film studios rejected pitches for Squid Game, believing the concept to be “implausible” and “too grotesque”. However, the show was finally picked up by Netflix, who thought that the class struggles depicted in the show “spoke to reality”.

Hwang said that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated a disparity between the rich and the poor. “The world has changed,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “All of these points made the story very realistic for people compared to a decade ago.”

[From IGN]

That story is amazing and is such a testament to believing in your dream. It also shows how studio people don’t see a hit when they see it. However given the premise of Squid Game, I don’t think Dong-hyuk would want us to interpret his story that way. Some people just get sucked into the rigged system and never get out, becoming fodder for bored rich people. Dong-hyuk had had multiple hit movies over the years though, including 2011’s Silenced, 2014’s Miss Granny and 2017’s The Fortress.

I promised I’m not going to give spoilers and I won’t except to say that this series was fascinating and I appreciated how it ended. There’s no news yet as to a sequel, but given how popular it is there could be multiple sequels and even spinoffs. Dong-hyuk has a new interview with Variety. He hedges as to whether he’ll do a sequel, saying that he hopes to put out another film first and that he can’t write it on his own like the last one. He said “I don’t have well developed plans for ‘Squid Game 2.’ It is quite tiring just thinking about it. But if I were to do it, I would certainly not do it alone. I’d consider using a writers’ room and would want multiple experienced directors.

Embed from Getty Images

Thanks to everyone who recommended K-dramas in the last Squid Game post! I am excited to start new shows now!




Photos credit: Youngkyu Park/Netflix

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20 Responses to “Squid Game creator Hwang Dong-hyuk spent 10 years trying to get it made”

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  1. Scal says:

    I’d recommend that if possible folks watch in the Korean with subtitles. It’s not a perfect translation but the dubbing translation is shockingly bad. Like meaning of dialogue are totally changed.

    • AEvaJohnson says:

      I’ve seen some posts on TikTok that indicate the English subtitles aren’t really much better than the dub in terms of dialog. We tried to watch the Korean version with subtitles for the first episode but gave up after that and switched to the dub with English subtitles. We found it’s just easier for us that way since we are watching it in bed at night and are both tired. I’ll likely research some of the missing contexts from watching this way after we complete the series.

      • Kate says:

        There’s a whole thread where someone points out the “bad translation” people were talking about is when people are using English CC (which is the dubbed version), rather than English subtitles which translates from Korean. They said the translation is accurate, while the dubbing is less accurate (because of the need for the length of words to match the mouth movements). It was a pretty fascinating thread.

      • Scal says:

        @AEva oh yea the korean to english CC is still pretty bad-still better than the dubbing (and the cc of the dubbing) though.

  2. Emma says:

    Question for those who’ve seen it, is it gory/horror? I’m a wimp…

    • AEvaJohnson says:

      It is gory, and many people are classifying it as horror. Personally, I don’t consider it horror (as someone that primarily watched that genre) but many events that happen to characters in and out of the game certainly are horrific.

    • Hoy says:

      Personally, the theme is about capitalism socialism and survival amongst the have nots”.

      Is our state society serving the whole – or creating discontent, even for those who “succeed”?
      Within this, there is gore and lasting jumpy style scares- tho impeccably styled. I just cover the screen!

      I typically only watch BBC historical fiction, so taking this step is so far worth the watch !

  3. josephine says:

    I’m looking forward to watching it. I also highly recommend Midnight Mass and The Chestnut Man for those looking for more of an eerie-vibe. Both were very well done.

    • AEvaJohnson says:

      I didn’t love the Chestnut Man, it wasn’t bad, just not my favorite. Midnight Mass however was MWUAH *chefs kiss*

      • bettyrose says:

        I loved the characters in Midnight Mass (the lovable characters, that is). I was sad for a day after finishing it because I wanted more of them, but there’s so much to deconstruct in the plot I’m not yet sure how I feel about it overall.

  4. TIFFANY says:

    He also mentioned that Netflix turned it down initially as well. 10 years ago, Netflix wasn’t Netflix back then. It is now a Emmy and Oscar winning streaming service who is looking to tap into the international market.

    This type of show was never gonna be on a Korean station, judging just from the set alone. There would have been no huge star to headline this series ( I was shocked when I read that Lee Jung Jae was attached to this. But he seems to know the score) there because they would have wanted to get paid.

  5. Theothermia says:

    It’s everything I can do to watch one ep a night lol

  6. Eleonora says:

    It’s so nice to see Korean shows, movies and music finally get the global audience it deserves.

  7. Bibliomommy96 says:

    I hope if they do a spin off, it’s done with integrity, I really loved this show, and I think it would be hard to do.

  8. blisteringsun says:

    i read yesterday that the young woman who played 067 (sae-beok?) had not acted before, she was a model. she did amazing in what was her first role. i watch a lot of kdrama, and this was already on my radar because of the director (loved his movies miss granny and the fortress-two very different types of movies. he also did silence a few years ago, based on a true story about child abuse at a school for the deaf. there was such an outcry after the film was released, it actually changed korean law) and the two mains. i love lee jung jae and park hae soon. they’re both such compelling actors in completely different ways i think. i was so happy to see all their hard work get such international attention!

  9. AmelieOriginal says:

    I watched the first episode last night with my mom who has never watched a Korean drama before (I started watching last year during quarantine and was mad at myself I had not delved into Korean shows before lol). She insisted on wanting to watch “that show everybody else is watching” and I was so surprised when I said “Squid Game???” and she confirmed yes, that was the show she wanted to watch. I kept telling her it was not going to be a fun show to watch, that the trailer made it seem like a cross between the Hunger Games and Saw. Anyways, no spoilers but we got to the end of the episode and my mom was so confused by what we had watched. I told her I had warned her it would be difficult to watch and really weird, but whatever. Not sure she will stick with it til the end, but I guess I will now that I’ve started.

    And it’s so interesting how best selling books/hit shows often have a struggle bus backstory. I would be really surprised if Squid Game got a second season. For the most part, most Korean shows only last one season. I know some have several like The Kingdom (I know there are others) but it’s not the norm.

  10. Aimee says:

    I have to watch it with the dubbing because I watch/listen at work and I can’t read subtitles while I work at my desk. I heard that the dubbing wasn’t entirely accurate but I am just going with it. I’ve been watching since Monday and am halfway down. It’s really quite engrossing. I admit there have been a couple times I squealed out loud at my desk and the people nearby were like “What are you doing over there?” lol

  11. Appalachian says:

    About 10 years ago Hunger Games released and Saw was everywhere. I can see why the studios may have felt the market was a bit saturated with death games 🤷🏻‍♀️

  12. bettyrose says:

    I don’t want to post or receive spoilers, but I’m just under halfway through and so far I’m not understanding the big deal. It’s entertaining, but there are a million dystopian (Running Man, Hunger Games) and historical (e.g. Gladiator) films about fighting to the death. I can only guess something unique happens to justify the wild popularity of this show. So far, it’s no better or worse than the Japanese series Alice in Borderland, which has not received the same level of reviews.

    Per comments above, I don’t doubt it’s better in the original Korean, but again that doesn’t explain the global obsession with this show, so here’s to hoping it rocks my world in the last few episodes.

    • observer says:

      Alice in Borderland deserves waaay more attention and if it doesn’t get a second season I will be mad.