Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - South Korea’s Squid Game craze hits China

South Korea’s Squid Game craze hits China

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Customers take photos of a dalgona, the crisp sugar candy featured in the Netflix series Squid Game. AFP

South Korea’s Squid Game craze hits China

It is not available in China but Netflix’s global sensation Squid Game has already built up a huge following in the country, with fans dodging strict internet controls to stream the show and snapping up merchandise such as its unique outfits.

The dystopian South Korean thriller has become the most popular Netflix series launch ever, the streaming giant said on Tuesday, but it is unlikely to pass China’s censors because of its brutally violent content.

Yet it is already a hit in cities such as Shanghai, where a crowd formed on Tuesday at an eatery selling dalgona – the crisp sugar candy featured in one episode – with customers gathering at its Squid Game-themed sign to take photos.

“People were sending jokes related to the show in group chats when I started watching,” a customer surnamed Li said.

“It’s rather fast-paced and therefore, quite thrilling,” the video producer said of the series.

After buying the candy, Li and his friend filmed their attempt at a challenge from the show, where contestants try to cut shapes from the snack without cracking it.

The series features a group of society’s most marginalised and indebted people who are forced to compete in a series of children’s games until all participants are dead except one. The “winner” gets $38 million.

As the show became an international hit, China’s ever-nimble manufacturers raced to tap into demand, with products – including the bright pink uniforms and eerie masks worn by anonymous guards – popping up across the giant online shopping platform Taobao.

Vendor Peng Xiuyang said his sales had spiked by around 30 per cent thanks to demand for the programme’s merchandise.

He had never heard of the show when a customer asked last month if he sold the masks – a plain black full-faced covering printed with squares, triangles or circles.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Customers wait at a small shop for dalgonas, a crisp sugar candy featured in Squid Game, in Shanghai. AFP

But now vendors like him and plastics manufacturers in the eastern hub of Yiwu are all rushing to meet demand – from both domestic and international buyers.

“Our customers are those who have seen the series and want to join in the trend,” he added.

With Halloween coming up, the spine-chilling masks have become his most sought-after product.

Illegal distribution

The lack of official availability has not stopped Chinese audiences from finding ways to watch the show – including easily available unofficial streaming sites or file-sharing.

The piracy problem is so widespread that South Korea’s ambassador to China, Jang Ha-sung, recently told a parliamentary audit that he had asked Chinese authorities to take action.

“Our assessment is that Squid Game, which is gaining global popularity, is being illegally distributed on around 60 sites in China,” Jang said, testifying remotely from Beijing.

As fascination with the show swirls among China’s tech-savvy youth, the hashtag Squid Game got nearly two billion views on social media, and related topics have been trending for weeks.

Users discussed how they would pass the challenges featured in the show, and wondered what a Chinese version of the series would be like.

But one user said: “It’s not like it would pass censors if we made such a show ourselves . . . if it were too violent, it would just get taken down.”

For now, fans just want to have fun.

A customer in Shanghai surnamed Yang said: “I’ve seen [the snack] being sold online, but it’s my first time finding it in real life.”


  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has given the green light for anyone who contracts the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron mutation or any other variant to convalesce or receive treatment at home or in any other reasonable non-healthcare setting. The new decision supersedes a restriction on home care for

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa