Studios Rejected Squid Game For Nearly 10 Years


Netflix's Squid Game may be the first Korean-language hit to top the streamer's most-watched chart, but for nearly a decade, no one wanted to even make it. That's hard to imagine, considering that the series is set to outpace Bridgerton and Lupin for Netflix's most watched series of all time, but at one point, the battle royale-style series that sees 456 financially broken competitors seeking a cash prize of $38 million was brushed off because it was seen as too brutal for television.

While Squid Game has found quite a large audience across the world, the Wall Street Journal reports that the series' creator, Hwang Dong-hyuk, first came up with the premise a decade ago, while living with his mother and grandmother. It was at that time that "Red Light, Green Light" was established as the first kids' game the competitors would play. But with no one interested, and work hard to come by, WSJ adds that Hwang was forced to sell his laptop for $675, effectively putting a major hold on writing anymore of the script.

But two years ago, when Netflix started producing the series, the company felt that it was the right time for Squid Game, even if past investors said that the premise and script were too extreme for viewers. As to why Squid Game works now and not before? Hwang says, “The world has changed. All of these points made the story very realistic for people compared to a decade ago.”

According to WSJNetflix is investing in Korean television and film like never before, with $500 million allocated to Korean content in 2021, alone. Not all of those are going to be Squid Game, of course, but it is proof that Netflix is realizing that the world has caught on to all that South Korea has to offer.


This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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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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