‘Squid Game’ Merchandise Is a Hit on Chinese E-Commerce Sites

The South Korean survival drama “Squid Game” has gained popularity globally, even in places where the series isn’t officially available.

In China, the dystopian series based on a children’s game has become one of the most talked-about topics on social media sites over the past week. A hashtag including the show’s name had been viewed over 1.8 billion times on microblogging platform Weibo as of Thursday afternoon.

​​In the nine episodes streaming on Netflix, 456 people are pitted against each other to play several games for a chance to win more than $37 million. The players participate hoping the money would help in repaying debts or ease their financial burden, issues experts say reflect the inequalities grappling South Korea. 

Several retailers on Chinese e-commerce platforms are trying to cash in on the show’s popularity by selling unauthorized “Squid Game” merchandise. On Taobao and JD.com, green tracksuits with individual numbers given to the participants, pink jumpsuits and face coverings worn by guards, and replicas of the iconic “red light, green light” doll are on sale.

A Taobao clothing vendor, surnamed Luo, said that apparels from the show have become instant best sellers. He started offering the show’s iconic tracksuits and T-shirts in late September and is now so overwhelmed with orders that he often stays up until 4 a.m. every day.

“I heard from a friend that the show is super popular and then ordered the same clothes from factories,” Luo told Sixth Tone. “The sales are incredible. Sometimes there are tens of thousands of orders every day, several times more than the usual orders.”

However, Luo said he hasn’t had a chance to watch “Squid Game” and is keeping up with the trend through videos on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. Most international streaming platforms, including Netflix, are inaccessible in China, with audiences resorting to virtual private networks or pirated versions to watch popular international shows.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people have shared photos and videos of them playing the games from “Squid Game” on social platforms. Many were particularly invested in carving dalogna cookies with certain images, trying to recreate the life or death scene from the series.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari. 

(Header image: A still from the Netflix series “Squid Game.” From Douban)


Candice Cearley

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