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Korean unions use Squid Game to mobilize for general strike

22 October, 2021The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions used the popular Netflix series Squid Game in a video to mobilize workers to join the 20 October general strike.

“You are all on the brink of life. A new game begins to overturn the rules of inequality! The general strike game begins on October 20th.”

In the video, a games master addresses a group of contestants, challenging them on their individual failures to stand up for themselves at work. They will need to play a game to proceed. The game solution is found in a union song, which says:

“If we are fragmented we die, but if we are one, we stand a chance to resist."

The contestants sing the song together, cast off their tracksuits and don union struggle vests. The games master congratulates them for winning the game, and the screen fills with the strike demands.

“Workers of the world, cast off your tracksuits and join the general strike today!

At the end, the games master asks one last question:

“Where did contestant number one go?”

The camera shows the empty office of KCTU president Yang Kyeung-soo, who was arrested on 2 September.

Squid Game is a survival drama that features a contest in which a group of deeply indebted players compete in a series of children's games for the chance to win a large cash prize, with a deadly penalty if they lose. It became the most watched programme on Netflix in 90 countries, reaching 142 million viewers in 28 days.

The series has captured the public imagination, with many saying it dramatizes aspects of life under capitalism and the illusion of choice faced by workers and consumers. It also highlights the devasting levels of personal debt and inequality in Korean society.

The lead character, Seong Gi-hun, is a former auto worker who lost his job after a strike. His story is based on the brutal 2009 SsangYong strike, which culminated in the suicides of thirteen SsangYong workers and family members.