On Wednesday (October 20), tens of thousands of workers took to the streets in protest of better conditions and a higher minimum wage, dressed as the black-masked guards from the hit Netflix series.
An estimated 80,000 union workers protested across 13 cities in the country, ignoring the government’s calls to curb the rallies (gatherings of over 99 people are currently restricted due to COVID-19).
Among other demands, they called for improved conditions for irregular workers who, under South Korea’s labour laws, do not receive the same benefits as salaried employees.
Lim Yun Suk, the Korea Bureau Chief for Channel News Asia, reported some union workers saying that, like the characters in the survival drama, “they too are struggling to make a living”.
The series, which has broken Netflix’s viewing records worldwide, starkly spotlights the inherent unfairness of capitalist systems. It centres around 456 debt-ridden adults on the brink of financial ruin who are invited to play children’s games in order to win 45 billion won (around £28 million), only with potentially murderous consequences.
For many in South Korea, the show hit close to home, where “workers work 44.6 hours per week on average, higher than the number of average weekly working hours (32.8) in OECD member nations,” according to an article published in July 2016.
“Some scenes were very hard to watch,” a former worker at South Korea’s Ssangyong Motors, which laid off thousands of employees while filing for bankruptcy protection in 2009, told ABC News.
Several union workers dressed in #SquidGames outfit take part in a rally in #Seoul, saying just like in the movie they too are struggling to make a living. They called on the government to improve workers’ rights. Some reports say about 30,000 took part in the rally. pic.twitter.com/tus8vj9KeG