South Korean original Netflix series Squid Game has been gaining traction in China, despite the streaming platform being unavailable in the region.
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This is according to a report by Korea JoongAng Daily, which claims that the show has garnered over 1.7billion mentions on Chinese social media platform Weibo as of October 4. The publication also notes that many unofficial costumes based on outfits from the show are also being sold by various online retailers.
The show’s supposed popularity in China is notable because Netflix, the streaming platform that exclusively distributes Squid Game, is unavailable in the country. The nation’s “Great Firewall” has notably blocked many global internet services, including social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, among others. The report claims that users have resorted to illegal downloading to bypass the firewall in order to watch the series.
“Currently, Netflix is available in a total of 190 countries – which does not include China,” a Netflix official told Korea JoongAng Daily. “There is currently no legal way to watch Squid Game in China, and we are aware that viewers in China are not streaming Squid Game legally. But this [online piracy in China] is not unique to Squid Game.”
However, Netflix also stated that it does not currently plan to take any legal action against the pirating of Squid Game or the sale of unofficial merchandise, while stating that it is currently “cooperating with various monitoring agencies around the world to eradicate illegal content”.
Lee Gyu-tag, an associate professor of cultural studies at George Mason University Korea, meanwhile says there’s a silver lining to be found in Korean content being pirated. “Even when Korean shows are consumed under the radar, it still consequentially helps promote Korean culture. That can serve as a foundation for Korean content to succeed if China decides to ease its regulations on foreign content,” he told Korea JoongAng Daily.
“Both Koreans and Chinese people are unhappy about the status quo. So rather than simply condemning Chinese people for pirating, we can hope that the accumulated popularity acts in our favor if China does open up in the future,” Lee added.
Squid Game has also been seeing a massive surge in popularity across the globe, soaring to the Number One spot on the Netflix US chart last month and peaking at Number Two on the global chart. Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has also spoken about the show’s success, saying that it’s on track to become their “biggest show ever”.