Squid Game: Netflix Show’s Global Success Sparks Debate in Korea

Since the survival drama ‘Squid Game’ gained larger-than-expected popularity throughout the world on Netflix, the world’s big-name platform operators such as Disney+ and Apple TV+ have been competing to spend big money to secure Korean-made content.

But critics have raised questions on whether it is right for local productions to allow such platform operators to monopolise content rights to their shows at a time when the Korean entertainment market has emerged as a content hub for its globally popular cultural content such as K-pop, TV series and films, reports Yonhap news agency. These critics say local productions should seek ways to reduce their financial dependence on global content titans.

Netflix has spent some $700 million on South Korean projects since its market debut in 2015 and increased its investment to $500 million for 2021 alone. Disney+ said it will heavily invest in the coming years to create seven original releases in the Korean language, including ‘Outrun by Running Man’, a spin-off of the long-running South Korean TV show ‘Running Man’. Its Korean service will be officially launched on November 12.

The announcement was closely followed by Apple TV+ revealing its own plan to open the service in South Korea next week. Its Korean business has been widely anticipated as it already had ordered Korean-language originals, including the sci-fi thriller ‘Dr Brain’, starring Lee Sun-kyun, star of the Oscar-winning ‘Parasite’, and a TV adaptation of the novel ‘Pachinko’, starring Oscar-winning Youn Yuh-jung.

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Defenders of this cultural cross-pollination say the recent rush of global streaming powerhouses and the subsequent heated-up competition for promising Korean content will afford greater opportunities to Korean creators who have struggled to get a big-enough budget to dramatise their ideas.

Hwang Dong-hyuk, who directed and wrote ‘Squid Game‘, said in a previous interview that the project had been turned down by local investors and broadcasters for about a decade before Netflix approved it a few years ago. Critics, however, pointed out that the streaming platforms’ huge risk-taking investment may limit the intellectual property rights of Korean creators as the companies demand the entire IP of the shows they invest in.

According to insiders, Netflix shoulders the entire financial responsibility for a project, allowing local producers a 10-30 per cent profit margin, in return for global distributing rights of the underlying show and its copyrightable works.

Also Read: Netflix’s Call My Agent: Bollywood Review: Chaotic Star-Studded Affair

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