Squid Game Was A Decade In The Making Before Netflix Bought It

Netflix's "Squid Game" — a South Korean survival drama that has debt-laden individuals compete for a major cash prize where losing means being violently killed — has become a runaway global hit for the streaming platform.

The show was created by Hwang Dong-hyuk and has become so popular because it speaks to class divides, something that's become especially poignant in these Covid times. 

Hwang had the idea for "Squid Game," however, more than a decade ago, at a time when he himself was strapped for cash. But when he tried to sell the concept to potential producers back then, they all balked at the series' brutality and what they saw as an unlikely premise of people literally willing to die for money.

"The World Has Changed"

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Hwang shared additional details about his circumstances when first writing the script 10-plus years ago. He was living with his mother and grandmother at the time, and even had to stop working for a while when he had to sell his laptop to make ends meet.

Hwang's real-life struggles are echoed in "Squid Game," which he touched on in an interview with Variety last month. "I wanted to write a story that was an allegory or fable about modern capitalist society, something that depicts an extreme competition, somewhat like the extreme competition of life," he said. "I wanted it to use the kind of characters we've all met in real life."

When the pandemic exacerbated the class divide, the entertainment industry took another look at "Squid Game." "The world has changed," Hwang told the WSJ. "All of these points made the story very realistic for people compared to a decade ago."

Netflix picked up the series as part of its multi-million-dollar push to create Korean content. The first season exceeded the company's expectations, and "Squid Game" is now on track to become Netflix's most watched show.

The popularity of the show has Hwang thinking about what could happen in a potential next season, something he didn't consider much a decade ago. In a recent interview, Hwang shared that a second season would focus on the police. "I think the issue with police officers is not just an issue in Korea," he said. "I see it on the global news. This was an issue that I wanted to raise. Maybe in season two I can talk about this more."

All nine episodes from the first season of "Squid Game" are now streaming on Netflix.