Discover more from Monday Morning Economist
Economic Concepts in Squid Game
I’m currently attending the annual meetings of the Association of Private Enterprise Education and presenting some preliminary work on research issues in economics education. As a result, this week’s article isn’t coming to you in the morning and it’s also a bit shorter than a typical release. Hopefully, you can spend the extra time by checking out a new project I just wrapped up with some coauthors!
Last year, Squid Game broke Netflix streaming records and became a global sensation in a matter of a few weeks. The South Korean survival drama follows 456 indebted contestants who play a series of life-and-death games in an effort to win tens of millions of dollars. If you’ve never seen the show, I’ve linked the Netflix trailer below. There is a bit of blood and violence in the teaser, so you may not want to watch the clip below if you’re easily squeamish.
I didn’t watch the series when it first come out, but shortly after the show took off I partnered with Wayne Geerling, Kristofer Nagy, Elaine Rhee, and Nicola Thomas to find examples from the show that could be used to teach various game theory concepts. That paper has recently gone through peer review and will be published eventually in the Journal for Economic Educators. The series is fairly graphic, so it’s definitely not for everyone. We took care to identify clips that don’t contain an abundance of blood and gore so that they could be used in a lot of classes.
That paper includes a few short scenes that can be used in a principles course and a few longer teaching guides that could be used in an upper-level game theory course. One of the key benefits of using scenes from the show is that they don’t always follow the traditional rules taught in class, but that can actually be beneficial in the classroom. This allows educators to demonstrate how the classroom assumptions differ from games in “real life.”
Over the past two months, Wayne and I have undertaken another project that extends the work to a broader range of concepts that are covered in multiple economics courses. We’ve gone back through the series again and found a handful of additional clips that can be used to teach topics like comparative advantage and exchange rates. We’re hopeful that with the announcement of a second season we can expand the site and identify even more examples that can be used in the classroom. Click the image below to head over to the website:
If you know of any scenes that we may have missed or creative ways that we can use Squid Game in the classroom, please reach out and let us know. We’d love to grow this site even more, but there are only 9 episodes in the first series. If you haven’t seen any of the series yet, the show did win a People's Choice Award for “Bingeworthy Show of the Year.” That may be enough of a motivation to kick you into signing up for Netflix or borrowing your friend’s account before they start charging for external account access.
As of June 2021, South Korea’s household debt stood at 104.2% of its GDP, the highest among 37 economies [The Korea Herald]
About 132 million people have watched at least two minutes of Squid Game in the show’s first 23 days [Bloomberg]
Netflix reportedly spent $21 million on Squid Game, its all-time biggest hit [Insider]
Lee Jung-jae (the lead character in the show) was paid an estimated 300 million won, around $253,637, per episode [Showbiz CheatSheet]