A man dressed as a character from the Netflix series Squid Game. Photo: Aaron Chown/ PA Images/ Getty Images
The South Korean megahit series Squid Game has captivated millions of viewers worldwide and looks set to take center stage again later this month, in the form of Halloween costumes. But one byproduct of the show has not impressed schools.A Korean elementary school warned parents in a Tuesday newsletter that children could imitate the violent games depicted in the Netflix show, which is officially meant for mature audiences only.
“It’s true that children are interested in the series because of the media reports,” Lee Jeong-a, a vice-principal at Mangmi Elementary School in Busan, told VICE World News. “We wanted to prevent it earlier by sending the letter before it develops into a real issue because it’s tricky to guide children when the children’s games become violent.”The nine-episode Netflix survival drama features deadly contests inspired by Korea’s traditional children’s games.In the first episode, main character Seong Gi-hun plays a traditional game called ddakji, in which you throw a folded origami square at your opponent’s in order to flip it upside down.In the show, the loser must either pay the winner or get slapped in the face. It was a preview of the brutal challenges to come in the rest of the series, where losers would be eliminated—killed.This cruelty is exactly what schools and parents have been worried about. In its letter, Mangmi said children should not “hit each other” when they lose in ddakji.Before Mangmi issued its warning, offices overseeing schools in the cities of Busan and Daegu had warned of copycat violence.An officer at the Busan office of education told VICE World News that it issued guidelines in response to concerns about potential “school violence that imitates the games in the popular series.”
Officially the biggest Netflix series launch of all time, Squid Game’s reach has also impacted schools outside the country.Some U.S. schools banned Squid Game Halloween costumes over its violent messages, and some Canadian schools have similarly warned parents about students imitating the games.“This violent storyline promotes a feeling of confusion among young audiences and accentuates the impact of the shocking images or, worst, normalizes or desensitizes acts of violence,” Harold Sheppard School in the Quebec province said in a statement. “We urge you to take the matter seriously.”Follow Junhyup Kwon on Twitter.