North Korea, Too, Has Something To Say About ‘Squid Game’

K-dramas are banned in North Korea, but that doesn’t mean the country has no opinion about the hit Netflix show.
Junhyup Kwon
Seoul, KR
Squid Game, North Korea, K-drama, Netflix
A North Korean outlet has highlighted how “Squid Game” exposed the social ills of South Korea. Photo Courtesy of Netflix.

Seemingly everyone wants to talk about the South Korean TV series Squid Game, so much so that an unlikely voice has weighed in: that of North Korea.

K-dramas are strictly forbidden in the reclusive country, but a North Korean propaganda website on Tuesday commented on the Netflix show, seizing on the phenomenon to jab at what it called the “sad” living conditions in its southern neighbor.


“The series discloses the reality of South Korea where the law of the jungle, corruption, and immorality are commonplace,” reads an article in the North Korean propaganda outlet Arirang Meari.

The survival drama has become Netflix’s biggest-ever series launch, reaching 111 million fans in less than a month, the streaming service said on Wednesday.

In the nine-part series, characters play dark versions of childhood games, such as Red Light, Green Light, where losers die and winners take home big prize money, sometimes by killing one another.

“It is said that it makes people realize the sad reality of the beastly society in which people are driven into extreme competition,” the article said. “It is said to arouse anger about the unequal society where the moneyless are treated like chess pieces for the rich.”

This contrasts apparently with what North Korea has said is its superior treatment of laborers in the country, such as orphan children who volunteer to work in coal mines, or child labor as it’s known elsewhere.

South Korean pop culture, including TV shows and music, is banned in the North, with violators liable to heavy fines and even imprisonment.

But the North Korean site, established in 2016, is no stranger to seizing on the South’s cultural output as propaganda fodder.

Squid Game, North Korea, K-drama, Netflix

South Korean survival drama “Squid Game.” Photo Courtesy of Netflix.

Last month, Arirang Meari trained its sights on D.P., a Netflix drama that centers on a team of South Korean military police seeking to catch deserters and depicts an unflattering view of the country’s military.


As it did with Squid Game, the North Korean outlet highlighted how the show exposed the social ills of South Korea, such as rampant abuse and corruption inside the South Korean military.

Propaganda aside, tensions between the countries remain high as they build up their militaries and race to develop increasingly powerful weapons.

Pyongyang has defended its missile program as necessary to protect itself from the United States and South Korea.

On Tuesday, North Korean state television showed off weapons, jet planes, and troops at an exhibition. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was shown watching and smiling as shirtless soldiers smashed bricks with their bare hands.

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