Squid Game: How South Korea’s social inequality inspired Netflix’s biggest hit

In the News: Drama is based on people in debt forced to play children’s games for money or death

Have you seen Squid Game yet?

Chances are by this point you’re one of the millions of people worldwide who have watched the nine-part series that was unveiled in September and is breaking viewing records.

But what is it about this South Korean drama, in which 456 competitors with unsurmountable debts are forced to play children’s games for money or death, that draws us in?

Is it the extreme violence, sympathy for the unfortunate characters or just a fascination with child’s play turned evil?


Is Squid Game just another Hunger Games-style dystopian action thriller or does it actually address societal inequalities, not only in South Korea but around the world?

Today, In the News presenter Sorcha Pollak speaks to Dr Kevin Cawley, senior lecturer in Korean Studies at University College Cork, about the societal divisions and deepening inequalities that inspired director Hwang Dong Hyuk to tell the story of Squid Game.

Also on the podcast, Irish Times features writer Patrick Freyne reflects on what attracts us to follow ultra-violent TV storylines and looks at other shows addressing class divisions, poverty and greed in the western world.

In the News is presented by reporters Sorcha Pollak and Conor Pope.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast