Squid Game is the latest Korean drama by Netflix to take the world by storm, and it is rapidly shaping up to be the platform’s most popular show in history. With the show topping the rankings in 90 countries, including the United States, many non-Koreans are now being introduced to the games shown in the series. Read on to learn more about the real-life children’s games that “Squid Game” put a violent twist on.
Squid Game has also left a mark on us at KORE, leading us to create some pieces inspired by Squid Game and the characters in it. We've recently released the Player KORE crewneck and joggers (in a set and separately) and the Mugunghwa Girl crewneck and tee. Check it out now.
Spoiler warning for Netflix’s Squid Game!
The Mugunghwa Flower Has Bloomed
The series opened with the Korean version of Red Light, Green Light; known in Korean as "The mugunghwa flower has bloomed." The mugunghwa (known as the rose of Sharon in English) is South Korea's national flower.
In the original childhood game, those who get caught moving need to lock pinkies with the player who is "it". The chain of pinky-locking would grow with every player caught moving. At the end, the remaining player(s) needs to approach the initial pinky-locking between the "it" player and the first player who was caught. Once the live player breaks that link, everyone is free to run back to the start line. Whoever the "it" players tags becomes the next one to sing the chant "The mugunghwa flower has bloomed."
In the episode, the contestants are brought into a simulated open field where the players must move closer towards a finish line near a giant robotic doll resembling a little girl. The contestants could only move forward when they heard the words, "The mugunghwa flower has bloomed", after which they had to stay frozen in place. Those who moved during the silence were eliminated from the game and shot.
The second game in the competition was a version of the game bbopgi, meaning “to pull out” or “to take out” in Korean. In this game, players were tasked with carving out different shapes from Dalgona candy, a type of honeycomb cookie. The retro crispy street snack is made from melted sugar and baking soda, and was very popular among kids in the 1970s and 1980s.
Dalgona candy comes with a shape pressed into it, and it is common for children to try to eat around the outline of the shape without breaking it. This was the challenge presented to the competitors - except they had to use a tiny needle to do it.
Any players who broke the outline of the shape (e.g. circle, triangle, star or umbrella) they were given were, once again, shot and immediately eliminated.
Fun fact: In real life, bbopgi vendors sometimes offered another free dalgona or other prizes for those who could succeed in a challenge of extracting the hardest shapes.
Tug of War
The famous tug of war game also made an appearance in Squid Game. In the series, the contestants were divided into groups and made to play tug of war against each other in teams. Played on an elevated platform with a large gap in the middle separating the two teams, the wrists of the contestants are chained to the rope used in tug of war.
Once the losing team got pushed over the edge of the platform and fell through the gap, the rope was cut off by a giant guillotine, leaving the losing players to fall to their deaths.
The fourth game of the competition was themed around playing marbles, another retro childhood game.
Here, the players were asked to pair up and compete against each other. Each person was given 10 marbles, with the objective being to win all 10 of their opponent’s marbles. They were allowed to choose whichever marble game they'd like to play; some simply guessed how many marbles the other person held in their hand, and others threw their marbles on the ground at a target.
The loser was, of course, shot and eliminated from the game.
Stepping Stone Bridge
The stepping stone bridge game in its traditional form features children stepping over stones poking out of a stream or river to get to the other side.
In Squid Game, the stepping bridge featured glass panels instead of stones and was placed at a deadly height. Each of the players was required to walk across the bridge in a particular order, with some trick panels being very fragile. All players had to cross, with most of the early players falling through the glass and allowing the last players to cross safely.
The final round of the competition was the Squid Game, a children's street game that was played by many Koreans in their childhood. The series' director Hwang Dong-hyuk. Hwang recalled Squid Game being the most competitive game he played as a child, and most symbolic of the modern competitive society in which we live.
The game entails two people (or teams) having to fight each other inside a grid drawn on the ground shaped like a squid. Before starting the game, it must be decided who or which team will attack and who will defend, as there are different restrictions for each role.
The rules of the retro game are explained by the narrator in the opening scene of the first episode, which shows children playing the game. "In order to win, the attackers must tap the small closed-off space on the squid's head with their foot. But if someone on the defense manages to push you outside the squid's boundary, you die," the narrator says.
In the Squid Game series version, each player also uses a knife as they battle each other.
We have also just released two Squid Game-inspired designs. The Player Kore crewneck and joggers are inspired by the famous tracksuits that the characters wear throughout the show (including number patches of some famous characters) and the Mugunghwa Girl tee and crewneck after the doll from the "Red Light, Green Light" game. If you love Squid Game, be sure to check them out.
Have you watched Squid Game? Let us know in the comments down below!
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