‘Squid Game’: Is Han Mi-nyeo (Player 212) Over-Sexualized in the K-Drama?

Since Squid Game‘s rise to popularity as a Korean drama, the character Han Mi-nyeo (Kim Joo-ryoung) has become a topic of discussion and well-liked by many fans. Mi-nyeo insinuates she is a con woman who would do anything to survive. Fans of the K-drama were perplexed to see the character have a sex scene with the gangster Jang Deok-su (Heo Sung-tae). The decision to include the scene had a purpose to Mi-nyeo’s overall story as a female player trying to stay alive during the Games. Director Hwang Dong-hyuk clarifies whether or not Mi-nyeo was over-sexualized.

Character Han Mi-nyeo sexualization in 'Squid Game' K-drama with messy hair and crying.
Character Han Mi-nyeo in ‘Squid Game’ K-drama scene | via Netflix

Han Mi-nyeo’s uses sex to her advantage in ‘Squid Game’

By Squid Game Episode 4, audiences have a more detailed idea of the purpose and backstory of each character. But Mi-nyeo’s story takes an interesting turn in the episode. She comes off as a manipulative woman. When viewers first meet her, she lies about having a daughter at home. During the Games, she tries to gain Deok-su’s favor by giving him helpful advice and helping him cheat during the Dalgona challenge.

Her advances on the brute gangster are for a reason. Hwang explains it is all about survival for Mi-nyeo and the sex scene alluded to a “different kind of love” story. “The woman relies on the strongest man in the group. She has to find something to rely on. She believes it’s love – otherwise it’s too sad, you know, to sell sex to the guy just to survive,” said Hwang for The Guardian.

In Squid Game, Mi-nyeo often teased Deok-su with a sexual rendevous or called him “Oppa.” The Korean word for “brother” that is often used as a flirtatious word of endearment. Deok-su often saw Min-nyeo’s advances as desperate or clingy. Fans might have wondered if Hwang over-sexualized the character.

Was Mi-nyeo a sexual commodity in ‘Squid Game’?

Character Mi-nyeo for 'Squid Game' whispering to Deok-su in relation to over-sexualization.
Character Mi-nyeo before ‘Squid Game’ sex scene | via Netflix

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During the interview with The Guardian, Hwang reveals how he came up with the sex scene in episode 4. The director admits the idea blossomed from watching a reality series about men and women on a deserted island. The reality series had Hwang think about the psychology of survival and sex in “extreme situations.”

Hwang was asked if he was depicting women as sexualized commodities. The question ties back to Mi-nyeo’s sex scene with Deok-su, where it becomes clear she has become somewhat attached to the gangster. Fans likely caught on that Deok-su was stringing her along for his benefit.

The Squid Game director explains Mi-nyeo is not a sexualized commodity. The purpose of the scene and the character’s relationship is simple, “to show that, regardless of gender, women and men tend to perform desperate actions in extreme situations.”

Fans understood Mi-nyeo’s underlying vulnerability and fight for survival

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Each character in Squid Game had a story to tell. Ali Abdul (Anupam Tripathi) faced discrimination as a foreigner and entered the Games to provide for his family. It is the same for Kang Sae-byeok ( HoYeon Jung) wanting to save her mother and brother. As Squid Game progressed, fans came to sympathize with Mi-nyeo’s story a well.

On Reddit, one user commented, “Her overacting is to protect herself because she is in fact vulnerable. She knew how to survive using sexuality; however, she’s getting old, and things are not the same anymore. She’s the lonely one, a minority of minorities. Even within the contestants, she is denied by everyone. That’s why I feel empathy for her.”

In the end, Mi-nyeo is not over-sexualized or made to seem irrational. Just like the other characters, she makes decisions based on circumstance and survival.