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'Squid Game' emerges as big contender in upcoming year-end awards season in US

From left: Actors Lee Jung-jae, Jung Ho-yeon, director Hwang Dong-hyuk and actor Park Hae-soo pose for photos at Netflix’s red carpet event in Los Angeles on Tuesday. (Reuters-Yonhap)
From left: Actors Lee Jung-jae, Jung Ho-yeon, director Hwang Dong-hyuk and actor Park Hae-soo pose for photos at Netflix’s red carpet event in Los Angeles on Tuesday. (Reuters-Yonhap)
The South Korean breakout hit "Squid Game" has emerged as a big contender in the US year-end awards season, possibly to become the first Korean-made TV series winning a trophy at prestigious awards ceremonies.

Starting in late fall, the highly competitive race for great TV shows and movies of the year is the biggest celebration for the US entertainment industry eying for the Emmys and Oscars next year.

In the past two years, the American awards season unprecedentedly caught the eyes of Korean people, as Bong Joon-ho's "Parasite" swept the awards-positioning fall film festivals and the eventual Academy Awards and Youn Yuh-jung of "Minari" brought home the first acting Oscar.

This year, Netflix's Korean-language original "Squid Game" will be the next player that will gain huge attention not only from Korea but from all over the world.

Written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, the nine-part series about contestants competing in deadly Korean children's playground games to win 45.6 billion won ($38.5 million) in prize money became a global phenomenon, as it was viewed by a record 142 million households over the first four weeks of its release on Sept. 17.

Last month, the organizers of the 2021 Gotham Awards nominated the Korean-language Netflix original drama "Squid Game" for two categories -- Breakthrough Series - Long Format (over 40 minutes) and Outstanding Performance in a New Series for its lead Lee Jung-jae.

The awards for lower budget films and TV series are considered the beginning of the harvest season, and its winners are dubbed key precursors for subsequent awards shows.

Since then, US media outlets have increased the odds of "Squid Game" winning a good number of recognitions in big-name accolades, including the Critics Choice Awards and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards.

According to Gold Derby, an American awards prediction website, "Squid Game" has been included in its top five candidates for the SAG Awards TV drama ensemble prize, along with HBO's black comedy "Succession," Apple TV+'s drama "The Morning Show," Hulu's "The Handmaid's Tale" and FX's "Pose."

"If 'Squid Game' makes the final five, a win is definitely not out of the question," said Gold Derby, adding the SAG has given its top prizes in TV and film to popular hits of the year, such as "Grey's Anatomy."

It will be the first Korean-language TV series to compete for the award given by US actors if "Squid Game" gets nominated for SAG's top best ensemble prize, or officially Outstanding Performance by a Cast.

The cast of the Oscar-winning "Parasite" (2019) clinched the SAG's top prize for film, while Youn Yuh-jung won Outstanding Performance By a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for her performance in the immigration film "Minari" (2020).

The nominations list of the SAG Awards will be announced on Jan. 12, with the award ceremony set for Feb. 27.

IndieWire also forecast the Korean drama will get a berth for the Producers Guild of America (PGA) Awards and the Critics Choice Awards, adding Netflix has confirmed the show will compete in Drama Series categories, not Limited Series, at upcoming awards shows, including next year's Emmys.

Against this backdrop, the US streaming giant is moving fast to ride on the industry-wide expectations for its global sensation "Squid Game."

Netflix held a special event for screening of the series for industry people in Hollywood on Monday, along with creator Hwang and actors Lee, Park Hae-soo and Jung Ho-yeon. On the event's red carpet, Hwang confirmed the popular series will return for a second season.

The race of "Squid Game" will start with the Gotham Awards announcing the winners on Nov. 29. (Yonhap)

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