Squid Game is a South Korean survival drama series created for Netflix. The series revolves around a contest of players in deep financial debt. It was released in 2021 and became the top-viewed program in several countries, with 1.65 billion viewing hours only four weeks after its release.

Clip 1
  • Clip URL: https://criticalcommons.org/view?m=24nB6MC8L
  • Content Warning: mild violence
  • Concepts: Aggregate demand, national spending approach
  • Background: In the first episode, 456 desperate contestants entered a game to win enough money to pay off their crippling debt and start fresh.
  • Question: First, research the current household debt to GDP in South Korea (Republic of Korea) and calculate the growth rate since 2010. You can use FRED website: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/HDTGPDKRQ163N.
  • Then, using the components of aggregate demand and the national spending identity, explain how household debt can shift the aggregate demand curve.
Clip 2
  • Clip URL: https://criticalcommons.org/view?m=1tUNMFkCl
  • Content Warning: tobacco consumption
  • Concepts: Asymmetric information, moral hazard, principal-agent problem
  • Background: Gi-hun meets with his childhood friend Cho Sang-woo who is now wanted for financial crimes. Sang-woo is a former team leader at an investment back. He invested his clients’ money in derivatives and futures options, losing 650 million won. Song-woo later admits that he lost 6 billion won and used family assets as financial collateral.
  • Question: Cho Sang-woo is not the only “rogue trader” who lost millions of dollars and faced criminal charges. Research three rogue traders who made the news in the past thirty years. Show how it illustrates asymmetric information and the principal-agent problem.
Clip 3
  • Clip URL: https://criticalcommons.org/view?m=XjlB8PYtX
  • Content Warning: blood and depiction of a dead body, gun violence.
  • Concepts: Price ceiling, shortage, price elasticity
  • Background: Player 111, a doctor, agreed to remove transplant organs from deceased players so that staff members could sell them on the black market. As in many other countries, selling transplant organs is illegal in South Korea. Instead, organs are typically donated by live donors when possible or by families after a relative passes away. Such a prohibition is equivalent to a price ceiling of 0 won on human organs. In 2019, there were 32,560 potential organ recipients on Korean waiting lists (data from the Korean Network for Organ Sharing – KONOS). Of these, only 1,612 patients received an organ donation. Network for Organ Sharing. Of these, only 1,612 patients received an organ donation.
  • Question: Using a supply and demand diagram, describe the effects of a price ceiling on the market for human organs available for transplant. Is the demand curve perfectly inelastic? Analyze the effects of legalizing the purchase and sale of human organs. Include ethical considerations in your analysis.
Clip 4
  • Clip URL: https://criticalcommons.org/view?m=PZNMlOjiB
  • Concepts: Recession, unemployment
  • Background: While a fight breaks out between players, Gi-hun ties this violence to his past as an autoworker. The flashback scene depicts the injustice faced by labor workers in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis. This scene was inspired by a real-life event when SsangYong Motors filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and laid off hundreds of autoworkers.
  • Question: How did the global financial crisis affect the automotive industry? Research the automotive industry crisis of 2008-2010. Find South Korea’s GDP growth rate in 2009 (https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MKTGDPKRA646NWDB#0). Compare its unemployment rate in 2009 to the United States (https://data.oecd.org/unemp/unemployment-rate.htm). Did South Korea experience a recession in 2009? Define the concept.