The South Korean celebration of ‘Squid Game’ Emmy wins subdued

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Koreans shared congratulations on social media Tuesday for “Squid Game”‘s multiple wins at the Emmy Awards, but the overall reaction was subdued as the country adjusts to its increasingly prominent role in global entertainment.

From K-pop sensations BTS and BLACKPINK to the four-Oscar-winning film Parasite, South Korean pop culture is now a global phenomenon. While it was big news that “Squid Game” became the first South Korean drama to win an Emmy, many South Koreans were not as surprised by such triumphs as in the past.

South Korean social media was flooded with messages after the Netflix drama’s star Lee Jung-jae won best actor in a drama series on Monday and its creator Hwang Dong-hyuk won best drama director. . Both were the first Asians to win in these categories.

President Yoon Suk Yeol congratulated Lee and Hwang, saying the entire nation was celebrating their achievements in a show that resonated with viewers around the world.

“We hope (you) will continue to be active with your work and appear in good works that move hearts around the world,” Yoon said in a message to Lee shared on Facebook.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon wrote on Facebook that he was proud that South Korean artists are producing works that are “celebrated with enthusiasm and highlighted by the whole world.”

Ordinary citizens also wrote congratulatory messages on social media. But some messages were critical of the drama, and the level of jubilation was far lower than when Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” became the first non-English-language film to win best picture at the 2020 Oscars and went on to win three other Oscars.

Then-president Moon Jae-in and his advisers began a regular meeting by clapping to celebrate the Oscars, and South Korean media played the news extensively.

Several hours after ‘Squid Game’ won the Emmys, the news was still on the front pages of the Internet editions of major South Korean media, but not at the top, where domestic politics dominated.

“People are used to (big awards),” said film critic Kim See-moo. “Bong Joon-ho won four Oscars for ‘Parasite’, another actor won us an Oscar for ‘Minari,’ and then Park Chan-wook won best director at Cannes (for ‘Decision to Leave’). South Koreans no longer believe that there are barriers to entry for these awards and believe that anyone can win if they work hard.”

Kim noted that South Koreans are less familiar with the Emmys than the Oscars, in part because Korean dramas previously had little presence in the United States.

“South Korean TV dramas have been huge in Asia for years, especially in markets where people share similar emotional feelings with South Koreans,” Kim said. “‘Squid Game’ became a wider global success because it tackled the pressing global issue of inequality, but it also took a refreshing approach by telling this story through a brutal and deadly children’s toy competition.”

The Squid Game is a brutal survival drama about desperate adults competing in deadly children’s games for a chance to escape debt. In the drama, Lee stars as the series’ protagonist, Seong Gi-hun, a laid-off auto worker dealing with a messy divorce and struggling with constant business failures and a gambling problem.

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