13-foot figure, named Younghee, from Netflix's original series “Squid Game” in Seoul's Olympic Park [Image: Daniel Bernard/Unsplash]

Korean Netflix Drama “Squid Game” Makes History in Global Television Programming Nominations

Korea Asia

The Netflix drama television series “Squid Game” made history again this month by becoming the first non-English language series to be nominated for an Emmy. The international recognition of the Korean drama by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is a significant step forward for Korean and Asian representation in television programming as a whole.

The drama, which tells the tale of a group competition in which competitors are prepared to risk their lives while playing children's games for a $4.56 million reward, is a reflection of South Korean society's contemporary complexities and class conflict.

Four of the key cast members of “Squid Game” were also acknowledged for their performances in the drama. Lee Jung-jae, one of South Korea's most renowned actors, has achieved international acclaim for his performance as the protagonist in the series. Lee was nominated for his role as Seong Gi-hun, or No. 456, an absentee father and gambler looking for a way to repay his debilitating debt. Other notable nominations included supporting actress Jung Ho-yeon, who was nominated for her role as North Korean defector Kang Sae-byeok. Park Hae-soo and Oh Yeong-su were also amongst those nominated for their roles as supporting actors in the drama.

The cast and crew of “Squid Game” received a total of 14 Emmy nominations, including ones for its production design, cinematography, and a variety of other categories. Director Hwang Dong-hyuk is the first native Korean to receive Emmy nominations for writing and directing a drama.

The series' worldwide prominence is particularly significant in that it honors South Korea's economic background and rise as Asia's fourth-largest economy and the world's tenth largest. This is especially striking considering that the majority of South Korea's population was impoverished 60 years ago, and North Korea's post-war economy had been far more developed.

With over 140 million households having watched the successful series since its premiere in 2021, Netflix chose to invest $500 million on Korea-related content, up from a total of $700 million between 2015 and 2020. Over the years, the demand and production of Korean popular culture among western audiences have increased and South Korea will continue to gain immensely from any potential wins on September 12 at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards.

Maria D. Corte is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a second-year graduate student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University studying International Security, Human Security, and Tech Policy, with a concentration on Asia.