Actors Park Hae-soo (left) and Lee Jung-jae pose for a photo after an online press conference held on Wednesday. (Netflix)
For director Hwang Dong-hyuk, producing the upcoming mystery sci-fi series “Squid Game” brought about mixed emotions.
“After debuting with ‘My Father,’ I read a lot of comics and was mesmerized by survival games. With an attempt to create a Korean version, I started planning out the work in 2008 and finished the scenario in 2009,” the director said in an online press conference Wednesday. “However, casting actors and getting investment were extremely difficult during these periods. The idea of a game winner who strikes it rich was unwelcomed. The brutality and cruelty of the games were of concern. I had to put the scenario on the shelf.”
More than a decade later, interest in survival games and cryptocurrency picked up.
"Unlike 2009, many people were fascinated by the script and I decided to expand the original scenario to shoot a Netflix series,” Hwang added.
Director Hwang’s Netflix debut, “Squid Game,” revolves around hundreds of cash-strapped players accepting an unexpected invitation to compete in various children’s games for a tempting prize of 45.6 billion won ($39 million).
The competitors, faced with a life-changing opportunity, find out that each game puts their lives at stake. Taking place at an undisclosed site, the contestants are prohibited from leaving the premises until a final winner is declared.
Hundreds of cash-strapped players are invited to play childhood games in “Squid Game.” (Netflix)
Asked why he chose Squid Game for the title of his upcoming series, Hwang said it is the most physical game and his personal favorite among many childhood games.
“I thought the game was a perfect metaphor of our highly competitive society. So ‘Squid Game’ was a perfect name for this series,” Hwang added.
Veteran actor Lee Jung-jae, taking on the role of debt-ridden and divorced man Ki-hoon, shared his anticipation for the series’ debut.
“Because I always wished to work with Hwang, I was thrilled to hear about his offer. As I read through the scenario, I found the changes in emotions and personality of individual characters in an extreme situation captivating,” Lee said.
“Ki-hoon was an interesting character to play. Though he faces countless struggles in his life, Ki-hoon is very optimistic and humorous, and able to make friends in a life-threatening survival game. I was surprised to see how I portrayed Ki-hoon,” Lee added.
Though the game was set in a fictional world, co-star Park Hae-soo said it evoked real emotions.
“When I participated in the game Red Light, Green Light as Sang-woo, Ki-hoon’s childhood friend, the drama set was filled with all contestants. However, as I watched people die after fierce competition, I was left with many things to think about,” Park said.
The director hoped fans are able to find relief from the pressures they face and be free from the competition in their daily lives by watching the series. But he also urged viewers to dig deeper beneath the surface, and think about the reasons why we struggle so hard to live and survive in our competitive world.
The nine-part series “Squid Game” will arrive on Netflix on Sept. 17.
By Lee Si-jin (firstname.lastname@example.org