Netflix blockbuster ‘Squid Game’ makes Emmy history

Gun-toting masked figures in pink track suits oversee a larger number of figures in green.
Masked guards wander among contestants in a scene from Netflix’s “Squid Game.”
(Youngkyu Park / Netflix)
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Squid Game” is continuing to make history.

Netflix’s hit survival thriller was nominated for the Emmy Award for drama series Tuesday. The acclaimed South Korean drama is the first non-English language series to be nominated for an Emmy.

The brutal and buzzy show, created by Hwang Dong-hyuk, follows a group of contestants who are in dire financial trouble as they compete in a series of deadly children’s games for a cash prize. After its global premiere in September, word-of-mouth buzz helped propel the Korean drama into becoming Netflix’s most successful show ever, according to the streamer’s own secret metrics.


Past winners ‘Succession’ and ‘Ted Lasso’ and newcomers ‘Squid Game’ and ‘Abbott Elementary’ were among the leading 2022 Emmy nominees.

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Four members of “Squid Game’s” main cast were recognized in individual acting categories for their performances. Lee Jung-jae, who portrayed the kindhearted but debt-ridden father Seong Gi-hun, was nominated for lead actor in a drama series. Jung Ho-yeon was nominated for supporting actress in a drama series for her portrayal of devoted sister and scrappy pickpocket Kang Sae-byeok. Park Hae-soo and Oh Yeong-su were both among the supporting actor in a drama series nominees. Park portrayed Seong’s former classmate Cho Sang-woo, while Oh played Oh Il-nam, an elderly fellow contestant Seong befriends during the contest. Lee You-mi was nominated in the guest actress in a drama series for her performance as Ji-yeong.

The “Squid Game” cast members are the first native Korean actors to be nominated in their respective categories. Series creator Hwang is also the first native Korean creator to earn Emmy nominations for drama writing and directing. Overall, “Squid Game” scored 14 Emmy nominations, including for its production design, cinematography, special effects, editing, main title theme and stunts.

“Pachinko,” the acclaimed Apple TV+ drama series based on the novel by Min Jin Lee, was also among the high profile non-English language shows vying for contention in the Emmy series and acting categories. The show, which is produced in Korean, Japanese and English, landed a nomination for main title design.

A line of people dressed in green track suits.
Lee Jung-jae (No. 456) as Seong Gi-hun in “Squid Game.”
(Youngkyu Park / Netflix)

That a South Korean drama is eligible for prime-time Emmys is itself a sign of shifts in the industry. The Emmy Awards honor achievements in U.S. television, but the proliferation of streaming has made non-English-language programming more accessible to U.S. audiences than ever.

Historically, U.S. TV producers and networks have focused their original programming development on English-speaking American audiences. But the global aspirations of U.S.-based streaming services have blurred these lines. The need to appeal to markets around the world has seen companies expand into international non-English-language productions, which has also contributed to the library available to their American subscribers.

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A separate International Emmy Awards recognizes television programming that is produced and aired outside the U.S. According to the TV Academy’s rules, a “foreign television production [that is] the result of a co-production (both financially and creatively) between U.S. and foreign partners, which precedes the start of production, and with a purpose to be shown on U.S. television” is eligible for the Emmys regardless of its language as long as it is not also submitted for the International Emmys.


Because “Squid Game” is an international production made for the U.S.-based Netflix for the purpose of being shown in the U.S. (as part of its global release), it qualifies.

A woman in a green tracksuit with the number 067 printed on it.
Jung Ho-yeon as Kang Sae-byeok in “Squid Game.”
(Noh Juhan / Netflix)

“Squid Game’s” recognition by the TV Academy is a culmination of its historic awards season run. It made history at the SAG Awards as the first non-English TV series to be nominated. Lee and Jung’s individual SAG Award wins — for performance by a male actor and performance by a female actor, respectively — were the first for any non-English-language or Korean series.

Among “Squid Game’s” accolades are a Gotham Award, a People’s Choice Award and Critics’ Choice Awards. The series has also earned nominations for various critics groups.

The 74th Emmy Awards will be presented on Sept. 12.