But it may surprise you to know that that South Korean show’s creator, Hwang Dong-hyuk, didn’t receive any kind of bonus check for the success. In fact, he says he’s “not that rich” but has “enough to put food on the table.”
The show is a satire of capitalism and class inequality that centers around financially destitute people recruited by a shadowy organization into a macabre contest. The 456 competitors are promised a life-changing sum of $38 million if they win at a series of children’s games. But the catch is, if they lose, they die.
In an interview with The Guardian, the 50-year-old Hwang explained that the process of writing and directing the show “was physically, mentally and emotionally draining.” Hwang’s active imagination added to the work, he revealed, as he brought new ideas and revisions to episodes as they were filming.
Despite the hard work, which included Hwang losing six teeth from the stress of production, which evidently paid off for Netflix, the creator said he didn’t get any kind of additional compensation following its success.
“I’m not that rich. But I do have enough. I have enough to put food on the table. And it’s not like Netflix is paying me a bonus. Netflix paid me according to the original contract.”
Hwang is no stranger to hardships. He had to shop the script around for ten years, selling his laptop in the process while going through a financially difficult period. He explained the inspiration for the show was born out of his own family’s situation in 2009 following the global financial crisis that hit South Korea hard.
“I was very financially straitened because my mother retired from the company she was working for. There was a film I was working on but we failed to get finance. So I couldn’t work for about a year. We had to take out loans — my mother, myself and my grandmother.”
From there, Hwang sought solace in Seoul’s comic book cafes, gaining inspiration for the show from survival game stories like Battle Royal and Liar Game.
All nine episodes of Squid Game are streaming on Netflix now.