Squid Game's Cast Features a Mix of Korean Film Powerhouses and Up and Comers


With Netflix's new K-drama Squid Game gaining more and more popularity on Netflix, the verdict is in: people apparently really like seeing people massacred for doing poorly at children's games. The series follows a man named Gi-hun, as he tries (unsuccessfully) to navigate himself out of financial ruin. A pesky gambling addiction doesn't help. One day, he meets a recruiter dressed as a businessman who tells him he has a way to make quick cash, if he's interested. That leads us to Squid Game, where 456 willing participants take part in a series of children's games with the promise of a 38 million dollar payoff. Only issue is, if you lose, you die. Casual.

Squid Game is one of Netflix's most successful forays into K-dramas to date, and that's likely thanks in part to the stacked cast that the series offers. With a mix of South Korean film legends, as well as newcomers, the series offers a glimpse into some of the primary faces that are driving the Korean film and television industry today.

Below is a glimpse at the main cast and some of their past acting credits (or in the case of Jung Ho-yeon, a shoutout to her badass second place finish on Korea's Next Top Model). Get to know the cast, and for all things good, protect Ali at all costs.

Lee Jung-jae as Gi-hun


For the lead role, you need a leading man, right? Jung-jae's career took off in the late '90s and hasn't stopped since. A staple of Korean film and television, he is best known for his roles in The Face Reader and Assassination, though big thriller fans will also know him from the 2010 blockbuster, The Housemaid.

Park Hae-soo as Sang-woo

Sang-woo, the success story-turned-finacial-failure, is played by none other than Park Hae-soo. Park has been around for a while on the Korean cinema scene, but as of late, his career has been exploding. Getting a start in musical theater in the mid-2000s, his recent performances in projects like the K-drama Prison Playbook have launched him to household name status.

Anupam Tripathi as Ali

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Sweet, sweet Ali. The good man in the storm. The kind man who makes his way to Korea via Pakistan is actually played by Indian newcomer, Anupam Tripathi, who is a surprisingly new actor. His past roles only include smaller supporting characters, including two other roles in 2021—Taxi Driver and Space Sweepers.

Oh Yeong-su as Il-nam

Photo by NETFLIX.

In some ways, Oh Yeong-su's portrayal of Il-nam is a career turn for Oh Yeong-su. At 76, Oh is the eldest of the main cast, but his acting credits are a bit more selective. They include A Little Monk (2003) and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003).

Jung Ho-yeon as Sae-byeok


Don't mess around with Jung Ho-yeon's Sae-byeok. Squid Game is Jung Ho-yeon's first foray into acting, but that doesn't mean this is her first time on the scene. Since 2013, Ho-yeon has been in the spotlight, placing second on Korea's Next Top Model and landing giant campaigns through the late 2010s.

Gong Yoo as The Recruiter

He may have only appeared in two episodes, but the Recruiter is someone you should know. Of all the cast, Gong Yoo is one of the most successful and recognizable faces in Korean film, as well as other K-dramas. He is best known for his roles in Silenced (2011), Train to Busan (2016), and The Age of Shadows (2016).

Lee Byung-hun as The Front Man

Photo by NETFLIX.

Lee Byung-hun plays the mysterious Front Man behind the mask in Squid Game, which is a bit ironic because of all the faces, he's likely the one you've seen most. Of the cast, Lee is the one actor who has appeared in films states-side, including 2016's The Magnificent Seven as well as Misconduct.

FromEsquire US

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Justin Kirkland
Justin Kirkland is a writer for Esquire, where he focuses on entertainment, television, and pop culture. Prior to Esquire, his work appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Hollywood Reporter, and USA Today. He is from East Tennessee and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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