Yeon Sang-ho, director of Train to Busan and creator of the hit Netflix show Hellbound, talks about the show’s recent comparisons to Netflix’s Squid Game, another extremely popular South Korean show.
Hellbound examines how modern society reacts to supernatural and unexplained events, and how those reactions may be worse than the events themselves. Beings appear on an alternate Earth and inform its citizens of their incipient deaths and the sins that will lead them to hell, causing mass hysteria.
As a result, society divides into groups, such as the New Truth Society, and turns against one another. As a result, the show tackles social and political issues that are relevant to the audience.
Squid Game Comparisons
Squid Game swept the world earlier this year, with massive Netflix views. The streaming portal stated that the show was seen for a record 1.65 billion hours, paving the way for additional Korean shows to reach the West. Hellbound debuted in November and quickly surpassed Squid Game in terms of viewership, easily topping the charts and becoming massively popular. Many fans compared Hellbound to Squid Game as a result of this.
Sang-ho discussed the comparisons his show receives to Squid Game in an interview with the New York Post. He discusses why he thinks audiences have drawn these similarities between the two Korean dramas, as well as their respective popularity. He also talks about how they influenced how Korean dramas were received, and what it means for the future of other series.
Here’s the rest of his quote:
“I think ‘Squid Game’ and ‘Hellbound’ have their differences and the reason why people like them is somewhat different. Both of them were popular because they had something that people could relate to and resonate with. I think everyone has a certain level of fear and darkness inside them, and I think that’s universal. So when I was making ‘Hellbound,’ I wanted to find out what kind of hope it can draw from the fear that’s in all of us.
It’s actually not been quite long since Korean drama delved into these dark and apocalyptic themes. With Korean movies, it’s been quite long — but TV was mostly romance and romcoms. It was only 3-4 years ago that Korean dramas got into these darker genres. I think there have been some environmental shifts in the industry, and a lot of creators in the film field came over to the [TV] drama industry, and that’s why they brought with them the darker drama.
I don’t think [a show] has to be dark in order to be globally popular. It’s just that ‘Squid Game’ and ‘Hellbound’ were two dark series in a row. ‘Crash Landing on You’ and ‘Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha’ were also some Korean shows that are very happy and are globally popular. So, I think Korea has a lot of different genres to offer. I think creators are focusing on genres that they couldn’t pursue before. Before, the mainstream was romance and romcoms, and for a change, because the dynamic is shifting, that’s why we have more dark series.”