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The director of Netflix’s latest hit series, Squid Game, has said he did not expect the “fever” around the show.
The Korean drama, written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, sees people who are in dire financial straits sent a mysterious invitation to join a game which could win them 45.6 billion South Korean won (around £28 million).
To win the money the 456 contestants must play traditional children’s games such as Red Light, Green Light, with the price for failure being death.
Hwang said: “We did target a global audience from the start, but this fever wasn’t anything I had expected. I mean, who could have?”
Squid Game is on track to become Netflix’s biggest series ever.
The show premiered on September 17 and reached the number one spot in 90 countries in 10 days, the streaming service said.
It has been compared to The Hunger Games, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror and 2014 Japanese horror film As The Gods Will.
But Hwang, 50, said the former two had not influenced his work on Squid Game, an idea he came up with in 2008.
“When I first came up with the ideas in 2008, I was into the Japanese survival comics – Battle Royale; Liar Game: Reborn; Gambling Apocalypse: Kaiji; to name a few,” he said.
“As I read on, I thought about making the survival genre in Korea. The Japanese game-based comics focused more on the games than its characters. While the games were elaborate and complex, the players were less carefully treated.
“I wanted contrarily to show more of the characters playing simple games. I have watched The Hunger Games and Black Mirror, which did not affect me for this work. I have not watched As The Gods Will. Only later, when I heard that the first game was the same, I looked up that particular scene.”
Key cast members in Squid Game include Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-jun and Jung Ho-yeon.
Having previously spoken about wanting to make Squid Game “distinctly Korean”, Hwang said: “I believe that the characters, their stories and the problems they confront not only reflect the reality and the issues of South Korean society but also those of my own.
“The games and how the players play and react in them is what I used to do with my friends in my childhood. This work contains everything from my 50 years of life – memories, experiences, families and friends; all the characters’ names come from my friends, including Seong Gi-hun (played by Lee Jung-jae).
“Thus, this work is personal and Korean.
“But I was certain that, at the same time, they are similar experiences, memories and feelings that everyone around the world can share. We have all once indulged ourselves in the games and now, all grown up, we are growing weary from the big game of survival.”
– Squid Game is streaming on Netflix now.