Why ‘Squid Game’ Star Lee Jung-jae Finds the K-Drama’s Global Success ‘Worrying’

Almost a year after the release of Netflix’s Squid Game K-drama, Lee Jung-jae is still surprised by its global fame and reception by audiences. Lee has been an A-list actor in South Korea for almost his entire career, but after the success of Squid Game, he was in the spotlight like never before. Squid Game resonated with fans as 456 players fight to survive and win a grand prize. But Lee reveals the global embrace of the K-drama’s storyline is worrying.

Lee Jung-jae and young actor in 'Squid Game' K-drama.
Lee Jung-jae and young actor in ‘Squid Game’ K-drama | via Netflix

Fans found an understanding of why the characters risked their lives in ‘Squid Game’

Director Hwang Dong-hyuk took 10 years to develop and write Squid Game while he himself was going through financial burdens. In the end, he developed a storyline based on a broken capitalist society where blood money rules all. Fans meet the protagonist, Seong Gi-hun (Lee), who has gambled away all his money and tries to be a good father but constantly falls into the deep. Scrapping the bottom of the barrel, he joins 456 players as they take part in childhood games turned into deadly games of survival.

Like the other players, they have no more way outs of their broken lives. The grand cash prize only rises in quantity with the death of players during each round of the games. Despite knowing the risk, many return. Squid Game becomes a dynamic yet harrowing story of what it means to try and survive and human morals.

The K-drama showed multiple aspects of life. Fans met a North Korean defector trying to save her family to a man who has lied about his achievements and feels like a failure. The storyline proved that those in power will still find a way to function for their own greed. Squid Game actor Lee is pleased with the wave of interest in Korean entertainment but explains global fans resonating with the dark storyline is bittersweet.

‘Squid Game’ actor Lee Jung-jae is saddened by the reality of the K-drama’s story

After the K-drama, Lee continued his career by starring in a new movie. He has also been cast in The Acolyte, and in the works of producing a spinoff of Deliver Us From Evil. But Squid Game is still a topic of discussion for Lee. In an interview with The Guardian, Lee is happy about the success of the drama and his global stardom.

But the actor reveals, “it’s bittersweet. Yes, it’s great that audiences are consuming Korean content around the world. And they appreciate it. But if you think about the themes of Squid Game – how far are we willing to go to accumulate personal wealth; the lengths people are forced to go to – the fact it resonated with so many around the world is worrying. You get a sense this is the reality for so many people globally. And that makes me feel hugely sad.”

The K-drama’s storyline comes from a dark reality in the world. Lee also explains playing the characters during each level of the games was also difficult. “Doing that? It was terrible. The more beautiful the game set was, and the more childish and fun it seemed, the more horrific it was for the characters, and therefore us as actors,” explained the actor.

Squid Game and the K-drama storyline have changed the way Lee sees the world. He explains it is almost hard not to and often wonders what he is not doing for the better.

The South Korean actor will star in his first American series

Actor Lee has starred in his fair share of K-dramas in his career. He has also made a name for himself on the big screen in City of the Rising Sun, The Housemaid, Deliver Us From Evil, and his newest work Hunt. But Lee will now star in his very first American series in his career.


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Disney+’s The Acolyte series will star Lee in the leading male role alongside Amandla Stenberg. The Star Wars series centers on a padawan who seeks out the help of a Jedi master to help solve a series of mysteries. As they investigate, they find themselves falling into trouble. It will take place during the final days of the High Republic era, 200 years before Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.