SEOUL, South Korea -- In just nine episodes, "Squid Game," a survival drama, has won over Netflix viewers worldwide.
The Netflix Korea original drama series premiered on Sept. 17, 2021, and topped Netflix's drama charts in all 83 countries Netflix provides its streaming services.
Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix, said Monday during Code 2021, an annual technology conference hosted in California, that "Squid Game" is on track to become the biggest show in Netflix's history in any language.
"Squid Game"'s premise is that of a classic survival death game, except each game is based on Korean children's games. Over 400 individuals revealed to be in enormous debt, are invited to participate in a mysterious game where they are forced to risk their lives in a series of survival-of-the-fittest rounds for the opportunity to win a $38.5 million prize.
The premise has been compared to those of popular movies, including "The Hunger Games" and "Battle Royale."
"I've watched other survival death game genre movies, but there is something more about Squid Game," 27-year-old content creator Gaga, who binge-watched the show, told ABC News. "There are surrounding connections between the characters which makes it even more intriguing," Gaga added.
Dong-hyuk Hwang, director and writer of "Squid Game," revealed at the online roundtable interview hosted by Netflix Korea on Tuesday that the secret to "Squid Game" is its "simplicity."
"Viewers can focus more on the complexities of the characters and be fully immersed in the story when the rules of the games are simple," Hwang said. "People are attracted to the chilling irony of grown-up adults risking their lives to win money to repay their debts by playing kids' games."
Meanwhile, experts surmise that part of the show's surge in popularity comes from adopting particular elements of Korean culture to make a marked and critical statement about society.
"'Squid Game' succeeded in balancing out the intricacies of cultural differences against global issues," Duk-hyun Jung, a Korean cultural critic, told ABC News. "Though the specific Korean childhood games presented in the story may be unfamiliar to global viewers, the series managed to present the universal issues of capitalism and an ever-competitive society in a way that's easy to understand." Jung also added that "Squid Game's" success follows that of the immensely popular South Korean movie "Parasite," which won the best picture Academy Award in 2020. That film also made significant social commentary on similar issues surrounding capitalism and how it impacts society at all levels, Jung said.
Hwang said that he first developed the story for "Squid Game" 14 years ago in 2008. He said the plot of "Squid Game" was harshly criticized by people then for twisting the nostalgia of Korean childhood games into vehicles of survival-death scenarios, adding that the theme now is being praised as "realistic."
Hwang said he fully understands Netflix's part in the show's success. "A great advantage is that 'Squid Game' was released simultaneously for all audiences around the world. That's why it was possible to get such an unimaginable response in a single week. It was a great decision to work with Netflix," Hwang said.
Netflix launched its streaming service in Korea in 2016, and so far has generated 5.6 trillion won ($4.7B USD) and has created 16,000 jobs in the nation, according to a September 2021 report by Deloitte.
"These (original intellectual property content) have all led to increased sales and employment in linked industries in line with the globalization of the Korean Wave," a Netflix Korea spokesperson told ABC News.