Creator of Squid Game wins Straits Times Asian Award

The creator of Netflix series Squid Game tells ST that the show's global success was “beyond my expectations”, but he hopes it will be a “great motivation” for him moving forward.

The creator of Netflix series Squid Game tells ST that the show’s global success was “beyond my expectations”, but he hopes it will be a “great motivation” for him moving forward. (Straits Times)

By Ivan Lim
Former AJA President, Contributor to AsiaN

SINGAPORE: The creator of the Squid Game, a drama series about survival of the fittest in a capitalist eco-system, South Korean Hwang Dong-hyuk beat three other illustrious contenders to win The Straits Times Asian of the Year award.

The trio are Ms Maria Ressa,58, Filipino-American co-founder and CEO of digital news website Rappler, who shared the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for Press freedom , with Russian Dmitry Muratov, founder and editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta; Mr Veerabharan Ramanathan,77, a prize-winning climate and atmospheric scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego; and Ms Seiko Hashimoto,56, who oversaw the successful Tokyo Games amid the raging Covid-19 pandemic.  The seven-time Olympian replaced Yoshi Mori, 83, who had stepped down over his inappropriate sexist remarks about women, just five months before the games’ opening.

In its citation for the award winner Hwang,50, The Straits Times selection panel elaborated on the impact of  Squid Game, an action-packed drama about  456 players vying in a series of “win-or-die” games for a  tantalising S$529 million ($456 billion won) cash prize.

“As a social commentary, it has sparked soul-searching about capitalism, inequality and how society treat the less fortunate.

“As a commercial enterprise, it makes a compelling case to Hollywood for the viability of non-English content.

“Above all, as a vehicle of soft power,it has taken South Korea’s global cultural influence, already high, to the next level.’’ (Think boyband BTS and girlgcroup Blackpink and Psy of Gangnam Style fame)

Media-wise, the Netflix series of Squid Game showed the global reach of new media platforms, as well as the impact that ideas, creativity and cultural soft power can have across borders, even in a world shut up at home

It added: director Hwang’s film struck  a global chord and resonated with many, “because it made us reflect on what happens when societies lose their humanity.”

To be sure, the ST editors said they found the “callous violence depicted in the (Squid Game) series disturbing. But the underlying message is worth pondering not just in South Korea, the world’s 10th leading economy. Through the macabre scenes Hwang has dramatised the universal cry for fairer, more inclusive and human society.

In accepting the ST Asian of the Year (2021) honour, Mr Hwang, who studied at Seoul National University and the University of Southern California, said: “As a creator, it is my dream to create something that would resonate not just for Korean people, but globally.

“I’m so thrilled that Squid Game has caught the hearts of people all around the world. It is a great honour to be awarded the The Straits Times Asian of the Year, and I look forward to bringing more authentic and universally relatable stories to the world.”

The nine-episode thriller, starring Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo and Wi Ha-jun debuted on Neflix on 17 September and became an instant hit.

In its 10th edition, The ST Asian of the Year Award has been given previously to Asian political figures, from Singapore founder Prime Minister, Lee Kuan, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Myanmar President Thein Sein received the inaugural award.

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