Art has imitated real life to a terrifying degree and Lee Jung-jae is sorrowful about it.
“I’m happy about it, of course, but it’s bittersweet,” Jung-jae, 49, told said. “Yes, it’s great that audiences are consuming Korean content around the world. And they appreciate it.
“But if you think about the themes of Squid Game — how far we are willing to go to accumulate personal wealth; the lengths people are forced to go to — the fact it resonated with so many around the world is worrying.
“You get a sense this is the reality for so many people globally. And that makes me feel hugely sad.”
In Squid Game, Lee Jung-jae played Seong Gi-hun, a man who was addicted to gambling on horse races and accumulated a large debt to loan sharks.
He joined Squid Game in hopes of paying back his debts and paying for his bedridden mother’s treatment, but the increasing violence and inhumanity he experienced in Squid Game changed his objective into a struggle to survive.
And while the show was a blast to watch for many around the world, the actors themselves were horrified by the extent of what they had to do when playing their characters.
Said Jung-jae: “We had to express the experiences of these characters being pushed to those extremes… it was terrible.
“The more beautiful the game set was and the more childish and fun it seemed, the more horrific it was for the characters, and therefore us as actors.”
And perhaps Squid Game has left an indelible mark on not just Jung-jae’s career, but also his existence.
He said: “I do think about what happened in that show. It’s impossible not to. And it made me think about what I’m not doing.
“Many of us live obliviously. It made me rethink how I look at the world. It couldn’t not.”