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Key Words: ‘Squid Game’ creator says Netflix success didn’t make him THAT rich: ‘It’s not like Netflix is paying me a bonus’

“Squid Game’s” creator may have scored a huge hit for Netflix, but he hasn’t hit the jackpot. 

“I’m not that rich,” Hwang Dong-hyuk told the Guardian in a new interview. “But I do have enough. I have enough to put food on the table.” 

He added, “And it’s not like Netflix is paying me a bonus. Netflix paid me according to the original contract.” 

““I’m not that rich … and it’s not like Netflix is paying me a bonus.””

Guardian writer Stuart Jeffries suggested this wasn’t fair, as the South Korean survival drama became Netflix’s
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most-watched series of all time in its first month thanks to more than 132 million subscribers tuning into at least two minutes of the show, according to Bloomberg News. In fact, the report estimated that “Squid Game” — which cost about $21 million to make — is worth almost $900 million to the streaming service. 

Read more: ‘Squid Game’ is worth nearly $900 million to Netflix: report

Dong-hyuk, 50, drew on his own family’s financial struggles in creating, writing and directing the battle royale series for Netflix, which sees desperately indebted men and women competing in deadly children’s games for roughly $38 million in cash. He was so broke when he was writing the script that he had to sell his laptop at one point for $675

What’s more, working on the show for Netflix was so stressful, he said, that he lost six teeth. “It was physically, mentally and emotionally draining,” he told the Guardian. “I kept having new ideas and revising the episodes as we were filming so the amount of work multiplied.”

Netflix was not immediately available for comment. But Dong-hyuk suggested that a potential second season of “Squid Game” could be his shot to negotiate a bigger windfall. “Of course there is talk. That’s inevitable because it’s been such a success. I am considering it,” he said. “I have a very high-level picture in my mind, but I’m not going to work on it straight away. There’s a film I really want to make. I’m thinking about which to do first. I’m going to talk to Netflix.”

Despite the dark subject matter — or perhaps because of it — “Squid Game” has become a global phenomenon that has spawned countless memes, TikTok videos, the year’s most popular Halloween costumes, as well as real-life versions of some of “Squid Game’s” challenges — minus the risk of death, of course. 

Read more: Just in time for Halloween: People are playing real-life versions of Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’

And: 5 reasons ‘Squid Game’ is dominating memes, streams and Halloween

This was what Hwang Dong-hyuk had in mind all along. “I wanted to create something that would resonate not just for Korean people but globally. This was my dream,” he said. “We are living in a Squid Game world.”

He wasn’t making a “profound” statement about capitalism, he said. “It’s very simple! I do believe that the overall global economic order is unequal and that around 90% of the people believe that it’s unfair,” he said. “During the pandemic, poorer countries can’t get their people vaccinated. They’re contracting viruses on the streets and even dying. So I did try to convey a message about modern capitalism. As I said, it’s not profound.”

And when asked whether he struggles to reconcile a show that calls out wealth inequality finding success on a streaming platform backed by an international corporation, he had this to say: “Well, Netflix is a global corporation but I don’t think it is aggravating inequalities. I don’t think there is a contradiction,” adding, “When I was working on the project, the goal was to rank No. 1 on the Netflix U.S. chart for at least a day. But it ended up being much more successful, the most watched show on Netflix ever. It’s very surprising. It shows that the global audience is resonating with the message I wanted to reflect.”

He also took a playful swipe at LeBron James, who tweeted that he loved “Squid Game,” but didn’t like the ending.

“Have you seen Space Jam 2?” asked Dong-hyuk.

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