‘Squid Game,’ the Netflix Hit, Taps South Korean Fears


SEOUL — In “Squid Game,” the hit dystopian television show on Netflix, 456 people facing severe debt and financial despair play a series of deadly children’s games to win a $38 million cash prize in South Korea.

Koo Yong-hyun, a 35-year-old office worker in Seoul, has never had to face down masked homicidal guards or competitors out to slit his throat, like the characters in the show do. But Mr. Koo, who binge-watched “Squid Game” in a single night, said he empathized with the characters and their struggle to survive in the country’s deeply unequal society.

Mr. Koo, who got by on freelance gigs and government unemployment checks after he lost his steady job, said it is “almost impossible to live comfortably with a regular employee’s salary” in a city with runaway housing prices. Like many young people in South Korea and elsewhere, Mr. Koo sees a growing competition to grab a slice of a shrinking pie, just like the contestants in…

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