Netflix isn’t available in China but that hasn’t stopped businesses there from cashing in on the ‘Squid Game’ frenzy with merch

Netflix isn’t available in China but that hasn’t stopped businesses there from cashing in on the ‘Squid Game’ frenzy with merch

  • Businesses in China are capitalizing on the “Squid Game” phenomenon. 
  • The South Korean show is a hit in China even though the streaming service is not available in the country.
  • South Korea’s ambassador to China said he has asked authorities to take action against illegal distribution of the show.

Netflix’s “Squid Game” is a hit in China, with related products and merch flying off the shelves — despite the streaming service being unavailable in the country.

Chinese viewers have instead been watching the hit South Korean show — Netflix’s most popular show ever  — through VPNs, unofficial streaming services, and file-sharing, keeping discussions on the show alive and trending on social media.

The show has become popular enough in China that Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, recorded 1.9 billion mentions of it, according to the South China Morning Post

In the big cities of Beijing and Shanghai, shops have jumped on the dalgona bandwagon. The sweet honeycomb-based candy features prominently in one of the show’s deadly challenges. 

In the capital city of Beijing, a bakery started a “Squid Game”-themed confection-making challenge, Reuters reported. 

The owner of DIY Bakery & More told Reuters that her customers are mainly young people — a key demographic of the show’s fan base.

Shop selling Squid Game themed dalgona sugar candy in Shanghai, China.

Customers flocking to a shop in Shanghai, China selling dalgona sugar candy featured in Netflix’s “Squid Game.”

Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images


In Shanghai, long queues formed at an eatery selling dalgonas, reported AFP

Avid fans took photos with the shop’s “Squid Game”-themed signs, the outlet reported, and like in one of the challenges in the series, attempted to cut shapes from the candy without breaking them.

Chinese manufacturers are also trying to keep up with relentless orders for “Squid Game” merchandise ahead of Halloween.

At the world’s largest wholesale market in the city of Yiwu, manufacturers told China’s state-owned Global Times newspaper they’ve been swamped with orders for the masks worn by “Squid Game” monitors in the show. Demand for mask molds has also soared.

One wholesale toy shop, Huayu Toys, told the newspaper it has been selling more than 10,000 masks a day since the beginning of October, with exports accounting for about 80% of sales.

But ongoing electricity curbs are limiting production, the wholesalers said. 

Shop in Yiwu, China selling Squid Game merchandise

Costumes and masks inspired by “Squid Game” at a wholesale market in Yiwu, China.

Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images


Despite “Squid Game’s” runaway success in China, South Korea’s ambassador to China is reportedly not amused by the show’s proliferation across non-official channels. 

The South Korean envoy told a parliamentary audit recently that he had asked Chinese authorities to take action against the piracy, AFP reported.

“Our assessment is that ‘Squid Game,’ which is gaining global popularity, is being illegally distributed on around 60 sites in China,” Jang Ha-sung said, according to the outlet. 

The series is unlikely to be officially available in China, experts told the South China Morning Post, citing the show’s violence and its themes of socioeconomic inequality, which are likely to rile Chinese censors.

And even if the show were to ever find an official Chinese distributor, it would probably be stripped of many of its core components. 

“A clean version of “Squid Game?” It would not be the same drama,” Hye-Kyung Lee, a researcher of K-dramas at King’s College London told SCMP. “I am not sure if this drama will ever pass Chinese censorship, as there are too many killings and there is a lot of extreme [content], which is essential for the storyline.”

 

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