For a few days towards the end of 2021, as fall gave way to winter, Los Angeles’ top star was someone almost no one could have recognised a year before. He had no acting credentials, rose to prominence as a director in his native Korea, then went several years without directing a picture. However, Hwang Dong-hyuk, who came to Hollywood for a taste of award campaigning and industry meet-and-greets, found himself in an unlikely position of prominence. The developer of Squid Game, the year’s biggest screen craze, was finally making the rounds in his hometown. He’d be approached in restaurants and on the street and asked for photos and selfies–”even more so than in Korea,” he claims.

“I was inundated with meeting requests from a variety of industry stakeholders, including agents, management, and attorneys,” Hwang said of the trip through an interpreter. “There were so many individuals who wanted to meet me that I had to go through five to six meetings a day.”

This is almost unheard of in the history of television. The small-screen has always been a highly localised medium, at least in comparison to film, with a significant barrier to mass entrance for overseas productions into the United States. Streaming has transformed that equation by investing heavily in the unexplored market of global production, notably through Netflix. Non-English-language shows like Money Heist and Lupin had previously attracted large viewers in the United States; nevertheless, early this year, Squid Game broke all predictions, becoming the most watched series on Netflix—and perhaps any current network—in history.

Hwang was influenced by films and stories from throughout the world as a child. Throughout his life, he’s witnessed great, daring art finally finding its moment, even if it takes decades for films (especially pre-digital media). “Because we didn’t have a streaming service like Netflix back then, the worldwide reaction or replies didn’t come in waves as they do now,” he continues. Everyone on the planet is now watching his Korean drama at the same time, and as a result, they may be ready to shower it with flowers.

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