Such It’s bloodthirsty and brutal – and extremely successful: The Korean TV drama “Squid Game” by streaming giant Netflix is currently attracting the masses around the world. Less than a month after the launch, more than 111 million people around the world have watched Korean debt slaves compete for a high price in a kind of modern gladiatorial show.
This makes the martial series the most successful series start of all time. And it also pays off in monetary terms for Netflix. According to Bloomberg, Netflix estimates the series is worth more than $ 900 million and is now predicting unexpectedly high user growth.
With a production cost of just $ 2.4 million for each of the nine episodes to date, the series is making a profit that has also fueled investor fantasies. From the start of the series on September 17 to the beginning of October, the price of Netflix shares rose twelve percent to a new record of $ 639.
One reason for the success is the story of the series, which already prompted US diplomats to report to Washington: In their need, highly indebted Koreans – from young women to old people – agree to fight in a highly endowed game show to get out of the Get rid of debt trap. Little did they know that they were being kidnapped to an island to take part in deadly imitations of children’s games.
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The US diplomats explain the success of the survival drama as an expression of the frustration in Korean society over the dire economic conditions. The indebtedness of Korean families continues to rise, and young people find increasingly difficult jobs. And their desperation is a feeling that more and more people around the world are probably sharing.
South Korea’s pioneering role in the mobile Internet supports trends
Netflix benefits from the series that films and music from Korea have become increasingly popular around the world in recent years. In 2020 Hollywood awarded “Parasite” the Oscar for best film. This film already took up the growing wealth gap.
Then the boy band BTS, a group of seven androgynous-looking ex-hip-hoppers, took first place in the Billboard Global 200, the unofficial world ranking of global pop music from the US magazine “Billboard“. This band alone is estimated to have contributed $ 4.9 billion to South Korea’s economy. The girl band Blackpink made it to 13th place on the Billboard charts.
The successful bands are part of a trend that began in Japanese manga comics, anime cartoons and video games. The idol and pop culture developed here has rubbed off on Asia over the decades with ever new cast and stylish boy and girl bands as well as cosplay disguises.
With the interconnectedness of the world, this culture became a global phenomenon. The Japanese futurologist Morinosuke Kawaguchi explains that the androgyny of culture is apparently associated with the Internet. Identities become more and more blurred when people in the virtual world can choose their roles themselves.
The fact that South Korea has become a laboratory and standard bearer of this culture over the past 20 years is also likely to be related to the country’s pioneering role in the mobile Internet. Smartphones have long been standard in Korea. The first 5G networks started in Seoul and raised the Internet, online commerce and entertainment to a broader global top level.
At the same time, productions from Japan and Korea addressed the dark side of people early on. In 2000 there was already a spiritual forerunner of Squid Game in Japan: Battle Royale. In the strip, a totalitarian state let indebted young people compete against each other. Now, with Korean help, Netflix is transforming itself into a global amphitheater, which finally makes the ancient Roman shuddering during the bloodlust socially acceptable again.
The big trends from South Korea are now even able to get through to China’s youth, despite the ubiquitous nationalist propaganda with which communist moralists want to protect the attitudes of their youth from alleged foreign pollution: Although there is officially no Netflix in China, they are feverishly about VPNs or domestic ones Many Chinese are illegally using apps and dozens of websites. The South Korean government has already asked Beijing to stop piracy.
The interventions by the communist leadership so far have not been in Korea’s interest: In its latest flood of regulations, the government in Beijing tried to ban “unmanly” male stars.
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