“Squid Game” is a popular new South Korean series that delves into the question, “how far would people go to solve their financial crisis?" To that end, a group of people who are down on their luck are offered an opportunity to participate in a series of deadly games. To survive, they’re forced to use their wits, keep their cool, and when necessary, betray other contestants.
Along the way, alliances are formed and enemies are made, but in the end, only one can come out on top and receive $38 million to put an end to their financial woes. But no matter how many times you’ve seen the series, there are some fun facts about “Squid Game” that you may not know about.
Studios Turned “Squid Game” Down
“Squid Game” was the first series in which producer Hwang Dong-hyuk worked with an international entertainment company like Netflix. Dong-hyuk had actually been working on the script since 2008. At the time, he had a family and was extremely broke and in debt just like the contestants on the show.
He incorporated his personal experiences into the script and finished it in 2009. But he had a tough time getting people to invest in his project and several studios rejected him because they felt his project was very violent. Eventually, Netflix caught wind of the project and acquired it.
The Director Lost 6 Teeth from Stress
Director Dong-hyuk reportedly lost 6 of his teeth while writing the script because he was extremely stressed over his deteriorating financial status. The first two episodes alone took six months to finish and it came with some serious consequences. "On my left side, I still don't have two molars. I need to get implants but haven't had the time," he explained. But with the show’s success, he should have more than enough money to get a whole new set of teeth if he wants.
It Almost Became a Movie
Dong-hyuk originally wrote “Squid Game” to be a film, but felt that it was nearly impossible to cram all of his ideas and the games into two hours. So it was changed into a series to allow him and his writing team to come up with new characters and flesh out the story so that none of his original ideas would end up on the cutting room floor. And in the end, it paid off and the series received 9 episodes ranging from 32 minutes to 63 minutes long to tell the whole story.
The Phone Number is Real
In the first episode, the players receive a business card from a mysterious man who invites them to complete in the “Squid Game.” In addition to the company logo, the card also features a phone number, which happens to be real.
This created a problem as thousands of real people started calling the number asking to participate in the game and the owner of the phone number couldn’t simply change their number because they needed it for work related purposes. So, Netflix came up with a solution by editing out the phone number that appears in several key scenes.
The Giant Laser-Eyed Doll Can Be Visited in Real Life
The first episode features a giant doll with laser eyes in the game “Red Light, Green Light,” and fans of the show can actually visit her in real life. She’s located at the entrance of Macha Land, a horse carriage museum in Jincheon County, approximately three hours north of Seoul. The doll wasn’t made for the show, it was just borrowed to film the scene. Once the shooting was completed (no pun intended), the doll was returned to the museum.
The Walls Foreshadow the Games
Throughout the series, the contestants get to stay in a dorm room similar to those used in the military and there are a series of doodles and drawings on the walls that most viewers might have missed because they look like drawings in a kid’s book. But they are actually foreshadowing the upcoming deadly games that the contestants will have to perform. Had the contestants been aware of this, they might have been able to plan ahead to increase their odds of surviving each challenge.
Season Two is in the Works
Dong-hyuk had stated that despite the show’s incredible global popularity, he had no plans on making another season as he has several other projects in the works. However, he didn’t rule out the possibility of a second season someday, and if it did happen, he intended to hire a team of directors and writers to lend him a hand.
He stated: "I don't have well-developed plans for Squid Game 2. It is quite tiring just thinking about it. But if I were to do it, I would certainly not do it alone. I'd consider using a writer's room and would want multiple experienced directors." But during a red carpet event, he confirmed that there will be a second season. “So, there’s been so much pressure, so much demand, and so much love for a second season. So I almost feel like you leave us no choice,” he said.
Jung Ho-yeon Made Her Acting Debut
Jung Ho-yeon is a professional model in South Korea, but her role as Sae-byeok, a pickpocketer, was actually her first acting role. But she and her character are quite different. While Sae-byeok defected from North Korea, Ho-yeon actually traveled from New York to South Korea to audition for “Squid Game.” When director Dong-hyuk saw her audition tape, he knew in that moment that she was destined for the role.
Jung Ho-yeon Was on Korea’s Next Top Model
Jung Ho-yeon's modeling career began in 2010. She even walked the runway at the Seoul Fashon Week for two years. Then, in 2013, she was a contestant on “Korea’s Next Top Model” during the show’s fourth season. Unfortunately, she didn’t win, but she was a runner-up.
And in 2016, she was an exclusive model for Louis Vuitton and became a global ambassador for them in 2021. So even though she didn’t win Top Model, she feels like a winner because she also starred in one of the most successful Netflix shows to date and she’s also gained worldwide recognition for her performance.
Escher’s Relativity Inspired the Stairs on the Show
The colorful and somewhat dizzying stairs shown in the series were inspired by a lithograph print titled Relativity by Dutch artist M.C. Escher. The print illustrates a world where the laws of gravity are radically different from those in the real world and include seven stairways arranged in a puzzling manner. This is nearly identical to the complexity of the maze-like stairs seen in the series. They were used to add to the unsettling ambience of the set.
No Actors Were CGI’d in the First Game
The 456 contestants seen in the first game were actually portrayed by 456 actors. While most shows would have simply CGI’d people to give the appearance of several characters, the director wanted to keep everything as realistic as possible, so he opted for using real actors and sets as much as possible so that the audience would get a real performance. He even made sure that the tense moments throughout each episode were as close to realistic as possible.
The Music Director Opted for Soothing Music
Unlike some dramas and thrillers on television and film, the show’s music director and composer Jung Jae-il wanted to provide an eerie sense of comfort for viewers despite conveying a series of grim and deadly games with songs like Johaan Strauss II’s “The Blue Danube” and Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon.”
But half an hour into the pilot episode, the contestants are woken up by the final movement of Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in E flat major. This piece becomes a bit of a theme throughout the show.
Oh Il-Nam's Name Held a Big Clue
Spoiler alert! Don’t read this one if you haven’t finished watching the show. Okay. You’ve been warned. Oh Il-nam, the adorable old man who was a contestant on the show was the mastermind behind the games.
And the character’s name actually means number one man in Korean, which is interesting since his designation was 001. Another thing audiences might have missed is that the animatronic doll in the game “Red Light, Green Light” didn’t detect him when she scanned the other contestants in the crowd.
Sang-Woo is Based on the Director’s Past
Actor Park Hae-soo played Cho Sang-woo, one of the smartest contestants on the show. While studying the role, Hae-soo drew a great deal of inspiration from director Dong-hyuk's personal experiences at Seoul National University since both the director and the character Sang-woo attended the same university. Another interesting tidbit about the show is that Dong-hyuk's grandmother also worked at the Ssangmun-dong Market just like Sang-woo's mother did on the series.
A Machine Was Used in the Tug-of-War Scene
In the tug-of-war scenes, contestants on two opposing ends struggled to pull the rope hard enough to push the other team over the edge and to their eventual deaths. But audiences may not realize that it was a machine pulling on the other end in real life, which made it difficult for the actors pulling. In fact, Lee Junga-jae, who played Seong Gi-hun, claimed that it was one of the most physically exhausting scenes they had ever done and he was nearly knocked out in the process.
The Coffins Symbolize the Final Gift to the Contestants
The number of contestants that die on the show is astronomical, and sooner or later, the players wind up in a black coffin shaped like a gift box with a pink ribbon. This idea was meant to symbolize how the creator of the game saw himself as God and was disposing of their remains in the incinerator as a gift or an act of mercy. But the coffin and pink ribbon added an extra level of cringe-worthiness to the series.
Gi-hun Running into Sae-byeok was Improvised
On the show, Sae-byeok was a passerby that bumped into Gi-hun and fell. And at the moment she fell, she dropped her iced coffee, and Gi-hun rushed to grab it and give it back to her in what became an awkward and somewhat amusing moment. It turns out that this scene was improvised and if you take a closer look, you’ll be able to see Sae-byeok's shoulder shaking because she’s laughing and trying to hide her face while she laughs.
The Masked Guards Could Have Looked Like Boy Scouts
According to director Dong-hyuk, the masked guards were originally going to look like Boy Scouts. Unfortunately, the original uniforms showed too much of the men’s figures. He envisioned the men looking more like a bunch of ants in an ant colony, so he had the uniforms switched to hot pink jumpsuits. He also had them all wear masks to hide their identity, which made their presence more ominous and creepier than the original Boy Scout concept he had in mind.
The Green Uniforms Made Everything Dusty
Throughout the series, the contestants were seen wearing green uniforms. This created an issue because the material in the uniforms came from old gym clothes. As a result, everything on the set became quite dusty with over four hundred actors. In fact, some of the people on set suffered allergic reactions and saw their faces turn red. Others had a tough time breathing. The director later admitted that the uniforms’ material was poor quality, but everyone pushed through their breathing difficulties.
The Uniforms Symbolized Conformity
On the show, the soldiers wear hot pink jumpsuits while the contestants wear green gym clothes. Director Dong-hyuk wanted the contestants to wear green gym clothes because it took him back to when he was in high school in South Korea because students wore similar uniforms in gym class. But he chose hot pink because he felt that it would show audiences the contrast between the soldiers and the players.
The Soldiers’ Masks Were Inspired by an Ant Colony
Director Dong-hyuk was inspired by an ant colony while coming up with the design of the soldiers’ uniforms. To that end, he gave the masks different designations. For example, some had a circle, which represented the worker drones while others had a triangle which represented the soldiers, but the square represented the managers within the group.
On the show, the managers, workers, and soldiers all have specific duties to perform and cannot deviate from those tasks. If they do, they’ll suffer the same fate as the contestants who fail a challenge.
The Showed Used a Real News Report in the Final Episode
The show’s director used a real-life news report in the final episode so he could show audiences the reality of what Korean families were going through. But one of the reports he used in the final episode stated: "In this country, household debt is on the rise, topping the global average.
"It's the biggest increase in the world besides China due to the lifted government restrictions on financial loans." The director claimed that although this footage was reported years ago, the debt situation in his country had increased because of the pandemic.
One of the Challenges is Trending on Tik Tok
The Dalgona Candy challenge was featured in one of the games on the show. It’s a kind of honeycomb toffee made of sugar and baking soda. The challenge is similar to the one on the show where the person has to eat around the image on the toffee without breaking it.
Luckily, no one has suffered the same grim fate as those unfortunate contestants whose toffee did break on the show. Another interesting fact about this challenge is that the production crew used to joke about the challenge going viral before the episode aired and it did.
The Dalgona Candy Challenge Was Inspired by the Director’s Youth
The technique that involved licking the toffee in the Dalgona Candy Challenge was inspired by director Dong-hyuk's childhood experience of licking the candy to remove the shape. He claimed he won several grand prizes by applying this method and he also tried it out the night before the actors shot the scene to make sure it was possible for them to do it. They also had a professional candy maker make the honeycomb toffee with the designs that were seen in the Dalgona Candy challenge.
They Hired an Expert on Dalgona Candies
To make as many Dalgona Candies as they did for the challenge, the show had to bring in a Dalgona expert to churn as many of the candies as possible. Not only did they make hundreds of candies, but every actor had a prop team assigned to them that would replace the candy whenever it began to melt or if the camera crew needed a new candy for a different angle. And the actors claimed that licking the candy to get the shape out without breaking it was a real challenge.
The Show Almost Went by Another Name
It’s hard to imagine the popular Netflix series being called anything but “Squid Game.” This is pretty ironic given that no actual squids are seen in the series. But in 2019, Netflix announced that the producers were working on a series called “Round Six.” This makes a lot of sense given that the contestants on the show must go throw a series of rounds to make it to the end. But the producers eventually decided to rename the show “Squid Game.”
Player 240 Was Supposed to be Male
Lee Yoo-mi did an amazing job portraying Ji-yeong, aka player number 240, but when the character was originally being written, it was intended to be portrayed as male. As the director continued to come up with the characters, he realized that number 240 was better suited as a female and would bring more to the series. Audiences quickly fell in love with her back story of being sent to prison for killing her abusive father and for the friendship she had with fellow player Sae-byeok.
Studios and Actors Rejected the Show
When director Dong-hyuk finished writing the script in 2009, no studio wanted to touch it because they felt that the violence was too much. And if that weren’t bad enough, several actors refused to sign up for the roles because they felt the concept was unrealistic and disturbing.
Then again, this was during a time before films like “The Purge,” which was also spun-off into a series for two seasons before its cancellation. But as violent films and television shows became mainstream, Dong-hyuk's vision became more appealing to studios, actors, and audiences alike.
It’s a Multi-Genre Series
Some shows are categorized under one genre. They’re either sitcom, thriller, horror, or drama. But “Squid Game” has everything from dark comedy to drama. It’s also a thriller and has plenty of horror and that’s exactly what the director wanted when he wrote it.
"Squid Game is a vibrant, stylish, and edgy contained thriller, horror, and drama. Enjoyable tints of dark comedy make the product even more exhilarating than it wants to come across," a film student named Luca Ippoliti was quoted saying.
The Subtitles Aren’t Accurate
Anyone who has watched or is in the process of watching “Squid Game” with subtitles will be disappointed in learning that the subtitles don’t always convey the real meaning of everything that was said. According to people who speak Korean fluently, in one scene, one of the players attempts to persuade another to play with her by saying "I'm not a genius, but I still got it worked out," at least according to the subtitles. But what the character actually said was, "I am very smart. I just never got a chance to study."
The Dorm Was Designed Like a Warehouse
The dorm room was designed to resemble a warehouse and came complete with bunk beds on the walls that looked like the shelves in a warehouse. But audiences noticed that as more contestants lost their lives in the challenges, the number of beds in the dorm also decreased when the workers cleared them out. This also made the paintings on the walls that offered the clues of the upcoming challenges more visible to the players. Oddly enough, the players weren’t very observant.
It Was the First Korean Drama to Rank Number One
“Squid Game” became the first Korean series to rank number one in Netflix’s most-watched shows in the United States. The series is also on the top list in many other countries around the world and it even managed to beat the very popular British drama “Sex Education.” The show has continued to lead as number one in twenty-one countries and number two in fifty countries. And it ranks as number two on the global chart.
Lee Jung-jae Speaks English Fluently
On November 5, 2021, Lee Jung-jae added a new video on his Instagram where he thanked “Squid Game” fans for their enthusiasm for the show. As he walked outside, he held up his camera and said, "Hi, everyone. It's me, JJ, 456." The actor continued, "Thank you so much for your amazing love and support. "I'm so honored for the 'Gotham' nominations. I truly hope to see all of you in person very soon. Thank you. Bless you!" This shocked his new fans since few knew that he actually spoke fluent English until that point.
111 Million Netflix Users Watched in the First 28 Days
111 million Netflix viewers watched “Squid Game” during the first 28 days after its premiere. This made it the biggest launch the streaming service had so far. It even beat out Shonda Rhimes’ popular Netflix series “Bridgerton,” which was seen by 72 million viewers in the first 28 days. But there was a slight consequence from the popularity. It turns out that the local broadband provider filed a lawsuit against Netflix because the show’s success caused a huge increase in traffic in South Korea.
The Staff Uniforms Were Based on Factory Workers
Director Dong-hyuk was inspired by photos of factory workers when coming up with ideas on how to make the staff uniforms for the show. He felt that the look symbolized the erasure of personality and individuality, which is what he was going for. Meanwhile, the only thing that sets the players’ uniforms apart are the individual player’s number. Other than that, the players all wear identical white t-shirts with their designated number across their chest and white sneakers.
The Incinerator Room Was Modeled After a Concentration Camp
The second episode introduced viewers to the incinerator room by panning on the exterior of the room with the flames visible through a rectangular window. It turns out that the design of the room was modeled after the incinerator room at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Ominous music plays in the scene as boxes with pink bows are brought into the room to get incinerated. In another episode, a drop of blood pops out of a box, but one of the workers simply drills the box shut and tosses it in the incinerator.
The Contestants Come from Different Backgrounds
The contestants have one thing in common. Many of them have made some really bad choices in life which have resulted in them being in a ton of debt. But everyone has a different background and reason for joining the game. Seong Gi-hun is a gambler who joined the game to pay off his gambling debts.
Cho Sang-woo is wanted by the cops for stealing money from a client. Hwang Jun-ho is an undercover cop who sneaks into the game to search for his missing brother. And Kang Sae-byeok is a defector from North Korea that has to pay her broker to retrieve her family from her country.
The Playground Set Was Designed to Look Like an Actual Playground
The playground set was enormous so that the contestants would feel like kids in a playground. The show’s director as well as the producers wanted the actors to become familiar with the set before they started filming. But because the sets were all made from scratch, they were also extremely expensive. In fact, it cost approximately $12.3 million to make the series and that cost was astronomical primarily because all the sets were very expensive to make.
The Actors Bonded Off-Screen
Given how much of a tight-knit group the contestants were onscreen, it made perfect sense that a lot of the actors had formed a bond off-screen as well. Park Hae-soo and Lee Jung-jae became good friends and spent a lot of time together outside of work. Jung Ho-yeon and Lee Yoo-mi also became pals outside of the studio. And these are just some examples of bonds that formed outside of filming that made their onscreen relationships so much more believable in the long run.
The Show is Based on a Childhood Game
Director Dong-hyuk revealed that “Squid Game” is based on a game he played as a child. In fact, kids would play it on the streets or in the schoolyard. "This is a story about people who used to play this game as children and return to play it as adults," he explained. "It was one of the most physical, and it was also one of my favorite games. I felt that this game could be the most symbolic children's game that could represent the kind of society we live in today," he added.
The Midnight Fight
The Midnight Fight was seen as an extra challenge that occurred in the dorm room. It happened at night obviously. The lights were off, and the players started to brutally attack each other until they were bruised and bloodied. What made the scene even more unnerving was the use of flashing strobe lights. There were several memorable moments in the Midnight Fight challenge like the one where Deok-su tried to kill Sae-byeok.
The Marbles Game’s Cruel Twist
In the Marbles Game, the contestants had to choose a partner to play with, but then they learned that they had to play against one another. Each player was given ten marbles that they could use to play any game they wanted with their partner.
The goal was to end up with all twenty of the marbles. What made the twist so cruel was that some of the partnered contestants had become very good friends and, in some cases, the partners were married. This made the game difficult because they knew that the winner was going to have to watch their friend or significant other die.
The Final Game Was the Squid Game
The final game was appropriately titled “The Squid Game” which was essentially a duel to the death between Gi-hun and Sang-woo. The goal was to get to the center of the field before trying to get to the home square drawn on the opposite end of the field.
To make it even more challenging and deadlier, the final two contestants were given a blade which they could use to fight one another. Although both men were formidable fighters, only one walked away the winner. The other lost his life, but not by his opponent’s hands.
"Squid Game" is Making Similar Shows Popular
“Squid Game” might have taken years to make, but there are other shows that are somewhat similar like the Japanese thriller series “Alice in Borderland” and the Korean drama “Sweet Home.” But while they were popular in their own right, their popularity skyrocketed after “Squid Game” because everyone wanted to continue getting their thrill fix after they watched the last episode of the popular Netflix series. So, basically, “Squid Game,” has helped these other shows become more popular.
The Show Halted Production
Casting was completed by June 17, 2020, which means “Squid Game” could have started filming a lot sooner, wrapped production and been released a lot sooner than it was. Unfortunately, the show had to halt production in August 2020 because of the pandemic.
But the setback was actually quite brief. In fact, filming reportedly resumed a month later in September 2020. Safety measures were put in place to ensure that the cast and crew were all cared for to reduce the risk of any health complications that could have stalled production further.
The Creator Was Accused of Plagiarism
Fans of the show have noticed certain similarities between “Squid Game” and Japanese productions like “Liar Game” and “As the Gods Will.” In fact, the scene with the doll in “Squid Game” is quite similar to a scene from “As the Gods Will.” But “As the Gods Will” was released in 2014, five years after the director Dong-hyuk reportedly finished his script. Other viewers claim that some of the challenges and the overall concept of the show is somewhat similar to the “Saw” film franchise.
The Director Hired Unknown Actors for Some Roles
Lee Jung-jae and Park Hae-soo were always on top of director Dong-hyuk's list to play the characters Gi-hun and Sang-woo. In fact, they were on his mind from the very beginning. However, for characters like Sae-byeok, Il-nam, and Ali, the director went looking for actors who were less known, which is why he was sifting through audition tape after audition tape to find the right performer for these roles. And it’s how he found Jung Ho-yeon.
Real Tempered Glass Was Used in the Glass Stepping Stones Game
In the glass stepping stones game, which was the second to last game in the series, the contestants were forced to step onto tempered glass panels on a narrow bridge. The challenge was to step on the glass that wouldn’t break. Many players fell to their doom, and audiences were on edge the entire time, but they weren’t the only ones.
"Filming Glass Stepping Stones was actually terrifying," claimed actor Jung Ho-yeon. The show’s director wanted the actors to feel actual fear which is why the show used real tempered glass.
The Show Was Filmed in One City
Some shows require shooting in more than one city, but “Squid Game” was filmed in the city of Daejeon near Seoul in South Korea. Daejeon is the fifth largest city in the country and is considered a nexus of art and culture and comes complete with a booming entertainment industry. Several popular films and TV shows have been filmed in this city including “Train to Busan,” and “The 8th Night.”
The Soundtrack is Out Now
The “Squid Game” soundtrack came out on September 17, 2021 and features a number of the classic music scores that were used on the show to put unnerved audiences at ease. The soundtrack includes twenty songs, including a piece by the composer Franz Joseph Haydn which was written for a trumpet virtuoso named Anton Weinger in 1796. The piece was likely used on the show for the virtuosic fanfare-style playing.