Real life Squid Games? Korean culture takes center stage at non-lethal events.

·3 min read

Real-life versions Netflix's hit show Squid Game have been promised by a social media star and a Korean hotel — without the mass deaths the show is infamous for. But for some Korean organizations, hosting a "Squid Game" event is a chance to spotlight Korean culture.

The show, set in South Korea, centers on hundreds of people desperate for money, participating in seemingly innocent children's games in a bid for $38.31 million. There's just one catch: If you lose in the game, you die.

"We have this mainstream Korean show and faces in the media, but we're not talking about Korean culture and educating enough," said Sherry Chan-Woo, a volunteer at The Korean Cultural Center of Chicago. Chan-Woo has volunteered with the center for the past four years, with members of her family previously serving as leaders and on the executive board.

"The show represents the inequality, the discrimination and so much more in South Korea now."

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The center plans to host their own rendition of "Squid Game" on November 6. The event will feature various games from the show with popular Korean snacks awarded as prizes. Chan-Woo's hope? That the public learns more than just the rules of Korean childhood games.

The event comes after a similar one Chan-Woo hosted on Oct. 13 in her neighborhood near Riverdale, Chicago.

The show's depiction of South Korea has created a larger conversation around the country's society and debt.

The Associated Press reported that South Korea's household debt, at over $1.5 trillion, now exceeds the country’s annual economic output. Tough times have pushed a record-low birth rate lower as struggling couples avoid having babies. "Squid Game" illustrates the country's mistreatment of migrant workers such as character Ali Abdul and the desperate conditions for North Korean refugees, AP reported.

In a separate event, Moon Lee — who lives in Montreal, Canada — helped host an online "Squid Games" and answered questions sent in from participants. Dozens asked "why are these Koreans so desperate for money?" Lee said.

"The show accurately shows the reality and treatment of those who are poor in South Korea; they are treated like nothing," Lee said.

"The main character in Squid Games is laid off and has no luck earning decent money afterwards. For much of my family in South Korea, social mobility doesn't exist," Lee told USA TODAY.

Other events similar to the ones hosted by Lee and Chan-Woo are popping up around the country, including a "Squid Game" held in early October by the Korean-American Association of New Jersey. The event aimed to spread awareness of the Korean culture, according to its website.

Park Hae-soo as Sang-woo in Netflix's "Squid Game." Sang-woo is another player caught in the deadly game, a banker who stole money and is in debt for millions.
Park Hae-soo as Sang-woo in Netflix's "Squid Game." Sang-woo is another player caught in the deadly game, a banker who stole money and is in debt for millions.

As more real life "Squid Games" are organized worldwide, Chan-Woo and Lee hope the focus remains around Korean culture and society. Chan-Woo said she plans to coordinate other games around Illinois in an effort to spread awareness.

"For a long time, this is the first time everyone seems to care about societal issues and customs in South Korea. The first time we're addressed at all," Chan-Woo said. "So I want to make sure we're educating people ... with the games."

Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Some real life Squid Games highlight South Korean culture

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