(AP Picture/Lee Jin-man)
Critics have famous that Squid Sport is a critique of capitalism and inequality. Creator Hwang Dong-Hyuk has stated it’s about how individuals go deeply into debt to outlive.
Squid Sport addresses this drawback in an escapist, dystopian story, suggesting the acute lengths individuals would possibly go to with a view to rid themselves of debt.
As one in all us argues in analysis about neoliberalism, escapism and searching for utopia, the strain between the traumatic expertise of labor and the necessity to survive prompts escapism, exactly as a result of escape from wage labour is not possible for most individuals.
Squid Sport alludes to the precise violence of South Korean labour historical past, in addition to the necessity to overcome actual inequalities of earnings and dwelling situations, in South Korea and globally.
Many individuals had been questioning capitalism earlier than Squid Sport debuted in September.
Even earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic, simply over 2,000 billionaires managed the identical quantity of wealth because the 4.6 billion individuals who represent 60 per cent of our world inhabitants. Through the pandemic, American billionaires added US$2.1 trillion to their hoard.
In Squid Sport‘s first episode, protagonist Seong Gi-Hun indicators away his organs to pay his mortgage sharks. The present has spotlighted how South Koreans have terribly excessive ranges of non-public debt, introduced on by a poisonous mixture of unemployment, simple loans and excessive rates of interest.
Sacrifice of employees for financial acquire
In The Wealth of Nations, 18th-century economist Adam Smith argued that property rights require state safety as a result of they create resentment among the many “have-nots.” Many political scientists since, reminiscent of Cornelia Beyer, have explored how poverty and exclusion result in crime and social breakdown.
These tensions will be noticed within the plight of South Korean employees sacrificed for the nation’s push for financial prosperity.
Labour historian Chun Soonok writes how within the Nineteen Seventies, within the textile district of Seoul’s Peace Market, ladies as younger as 14 had been crammed collectively in tiny rooms working continuous amid mud, noxious chemical substances and bodily abuse from supervisors.
Chun’s e-book, They Are Not Machines: Korean Ladies Employees and their Combat for Democratic Commerce Unionism within the Nineteen Seventies, relays how the fashionable South Korean labour motion emerged from ladies’s management on this interval.
Employee abuses famously led Chun’s older brother, activist Tae-Il, to self-immolate in protest, an act that sparked the fashionable South Korean labour motion. Employees first joined official unions and later shaped their very own, unbiased organizations.
Professional-labour, democracy actions
This labour organizing was suffused with violence. Chun particulars police and strikebreaker assaults on manufacturing unit sit-ins within the Nineteen Seventies and 1980 when there have been state-led torture and killings of employees and activists. As sociologist Paul Y. Chang demonstrates, within the Nineteen Seventies, there have been over 1,000 arrests, 130 pressured firings, 348 acts of violence, six kidnappings and two killings.
In 1975, the South Korean state imprisoned and tortured 23 individuals they accused of violating the Nationwide Safety Legislation, executing eight of them the day after their convictions.
This repression continued within the state’s response to pro-democracy actions in the course of the Eighties, from the 1980 Gwangju Rebellion to the 1987 June Democracy Motion. In 1987, police waterboarded pupil activist Park Jong-Chol to dying.
(Jung Yeon-je/Pool Picture by way of AP)
Wave of mass strikes
The calls for for political liberalization by the democracy motion led on to the “Nice Employee Battle,” a wave of mass strikes that shaped 4,000 new unions with 700,000 new union members, as sociologist Hagen Koo explains.
Regardless of victories, together with unions gaining recognition and the comfort of harsh office disciplinary measures, state repression of the labour motion continued. In April 1989, Koo writes, police launched a military-style assault on putting Hyundai Heavy Industries employees in Ulsan, utilizing boats, helicopters and 15,000 riot police.
In 1991, the president of Hanjin Heavy Industries Employees’ Union died whereas being questioned by police in jail.
This systemic violence advanced within the neoliberal period. Sociologist Lee Yoonkyung exhibits how chaebols, South Korea’s family-run conglomerates, fund their subcontractors to rent union-busting personal safety companies, notably in opposition to the Steel Unions Federation, the nation’s strongest union grouping.
Squid Sport refers to this historical past when Gi-hun is revealed to be an ex-worker at Dragon Motors — a reference to real-life South Korean automaker Ssangyong Motors.
Employees from Ssangyong Motors fought pressured early retirement and termination in 2009. Lee notes that their defeat plunged many into melancholy and that eight employees died by suicide.
(AP Picture/Lee Jin-man)
Poverty and inequality gathering tempo
Squid Sport‘s director, Hwang Dong-hyuk, had the collection in improvement for greater than 10 years and he was not sure of how the collection may very well be obtained. He notes that at the moment, “violent survival tales are literally welcomed.”
At present’s world is marked by rising inequality; as sociologist Hagen Koo exhibits, by 2016, “Korea’s ratio of earnings for the highest 10 per cent to the underside 10 per cent was 4.78,” very near that of the US (4.89), the very best of countries within the The Group for Financial Co-operation and Improvement.
This last battle, when VIPs watch Gi-hun and Sang-woo’s last battle from the security of a viewing field, mirrors capitalism’s survival sport, the place house owners rationalize their manufacturing processes and lay off employees. The combat to save lots of prices and lift earnings sends the system into periodic convulsions. This was seen in 2008’s world financial disaster, when working individuals had been victims.
Within the last episode of Season 1, Gi-hun leaves a case full of money for Sang-woo’s mom, with the proviso that she look after Sae-byeok’s younger brother. Whereas touching, it implied hopelessness; even when all of the contestants survived, they couldn’t ease the low wages and excessive debt of South Korea’s employees.
Change, not escapism
Squid Sport hints that particular person options to poverty and debt are inadequate: employees are topic to the whims of the labour market and financial crises.
Upcoming nationwide strikes are being deliberate by the Korean Confederation of Commerce Unions in opposition to precarious employment. Activists are pushing for union organizing rights and for higher working situations.
These reforms are essential for a front-line defence of dwelling situations. However they’re solely a step in direction of altering the issues with neoliberalism: so long as wages, housing and different necessities are purchased and offered available on the market, the inequalities Squid Sport vividly portrays will proceed.
The authors don’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that will profit from this text, and have disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.