• Television

After “Squid Game”, KTV Dramas Are Major Players

Audiences around the world just can’t get enough of South Korean TV dramas, and you can thank the breakout Korean megahit Squid Game for that. The Netflix hit series became a global media sensation in 2021 earning three Golden Globe nominations – including one historic win for the 77-year-old veteran actor Oh Young-soo, Korea’s first Golden Globe winner. The new zombie thriller All of Us Are Dead, which was released last Friday, is already being hailed as the new Squid Game, with many more Korean productions and big announcements in the pipeline.

Squid Game’s success is causing a global run on Korean TV shows like Hellbound, The Silent Sea and the brand new bloody zombie thriller, All of Us Are Dead.

Netflix’s latest South Korean drama, All of Us Are Dead, is currently the number one show in 53 countries. The 12-part series was released last Friday and accumulated a whopping 124.79 million streaming hours in its first week. It tells the story of a group of stranded high school students during a zombie breakout that originated at their school. Fans of Squid Game will recognize actress Lee Yoo-mi who portrayed Ji-yeong (also referred to as Player 240) on the show, and who now plays Na-Yeon in All of Us Are Dead. The ultra-violent series is already being hailed as the new Squid Game, with rumors about a second season already swirling.

While Netflix still has to confirm the second season, CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos did announce at the end of January that the second season of Squid Game has officially been green-lighted. Lead actor Lee Jung-jae is set to reprise his role as Seong Gi-hun. This comes as no surprise as the dystopian drama was the number one most-viewed TV series on Netflix last year in 94 countries, with 95% of its viewership coming from outside Korea. According to the streaming platform, viewers watched 1.65 billion hours of Squid Game in its first 28 days. Two months later, the dark fantasy series Hellbound racked up 43.48 million viewing hours within three days of release, making it the number-one show in 34 countries and topping Netflix’s Global Top 10 charts for three days straight.

Squid Game, directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards this year: Best Drama Series, Best Supporting Actor (Oh Young-soo), and Best Television Actor – Drama Series (Lee Jung-jae). The 77-year-old Oh Young-soo made history after becoming the first Korean actor to win a Golden Globe. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in congratulated Oh and the crew, saying the show “gave hope for humanity despite its gloomy depiction of society.” In an official statement, the President applauded Oh, saying, “His journey of acting for more than half a century eventually overcame borders and cultural differences, creating great emotional and lingering impressions on the world stage. I would like to express my respect and gratitude to actor Oh Young-soo, also known as ‘Gganbu Grandpa.’”



In January 2021, Netflix announced that it had leased nine stages at two production studios on the outskirts of Seoul in South Korea, for shows such as Kingdom, The King: Eternal Monarch, Start-Up and It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. The streaming giant spent $700 million on Korean production in the last five years and created over 80 shows with Korean talent. “Our commitment towards Korea is strong. We will continue to invest and collaborate with Korean storytellers across a wealth of genres and formats,” Sarandos said during an online press conference back then.

Dong Kang, Netflix’ vice president of content for South Korea, told the Filipino online news outlet Rappler that, while the level of engagement for shows like Squid Game, Hellbound, and The Silent Sea far exceeded their expectations, they did indeed plant that seed years ago: “It’s been already six years since Netflix entered the Korean market and started producing, started licensing shows. We have a very aggressive investment plan – a lot of shows in the pipeline – so the successes that we had last year, really proved our theory, and our belief in the Korean creative community, so we don’t plan on changing any strategies very quickly.”

Netflix has launched more than 130 South Korean titles between 2016 and 2021 and they will be adding 25 more original titles this year. 2022 marks their biggest Korean slate to date, thanks to the unprecedented success of Squid Game.

“We have this belief in Korean content, that if you make great Korean content that works for the local audience, we have a shot in making it in the big world,” Kang concluded.