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.”


  • Cambodia to waive quarantine requirements Nov 15, no PCR test required

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has decided to lift all quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers and visitors – both Cambodians and foreign nationals – effective from November 15 onward. In a special message addressed to officials and relevant authorities on November 14, Hun Sen said this policy will enable

  • PM: No more quarantine for vaccinated travellers

    Cambodia is lifting all quarantine requirements for vaccinated inbound travellers entering Cambodia by air, waterway or land border checkpoints effective from November 15. Travellers will be required to take a rapid antigen test on arrival rather than waiting for the results of the lengthier polymerase chain

  • No payment required for travellers taking rapid Covid tests on arrival

    Ministry of Health officials said there would be no payment required for the rapid Covid-19 tests given to travellers who arrive in Cambodia from November 15 onwards after the quarantine requirement is lifted for fully vaccinated people. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told The Post on

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration