Faculty Member Hae Yeon Choo interviewed by 'Winnipeg Free Press' on Squid Game

December 1, 2021 by Emma Robins

Professor Hae Yeon Choo was recently interviewed by Joel Schlesinger of the ‘Winnipeg Free Press’. Choo was interviewed on the rising popularity of the Netflix drama Squid Game. The article focuses on the universal theme present in Squid Game – money and desperation. This interview was based on Prof. Choo’s research, as part of Didier Fassin's and Axel Honneth's edited volume "Crisis Under Critique" (Chapter 4). This book can be found and purchased here and Choo's full article is available on ‘Winnipeg Free Press” here.

The article demonstrates the connection and interrelation of socioeconomic challenges and industrialized nation, something Hae Yeon Choo discusses and delves into deeper. With the main protagonist of Squid Game suffering a similar social issue to the real-life people affected by the referenced SsangYong Motor event, Choo is able to take her recent research and apply it to the in-demand television show, and later connect it to the debt and stress of Canadian lives as well.

An excerpt of the article is below:

“Additionally, Squid Game alludes to the country’s recent, often brutal socioeconomic history.

As Choo points out, the main protagonist Seong Gi-hun’s backstory is that he "accrued a significant debt, after being laid off from his stable factory job at ‘Dragon Motors,’ which took him down to a downward spiral of irregular employment and failed venture at small business."

To South Korean viewers, his story "is a clear reference to SsangYong Motor, which is a significant event that prompted a militant strike and a violent police raid."

That strike, by the way, is the focus of Choo’s recent research, appearing in a soon-to-be-published book. She notes the strike was a pivotal historical event that illustrates globalism’s negative effects on the middle class. Among globalism’s more negative outcomes, she writes, has been the rise of "ghost capital" in which money and corporate ownership are no longer are bound by national borders, making it much easier to lay off workers while ignoring the financial hardship they cause.

In the case of SsangYong Motor, many workers committed suicide after the layoffs, Choo explains.

"To many South Koreans, the SsangYong case shows the precarity of the stable working class under global capitalism."

Squid Game may be an exaggeration of the impacts of globalism, automation and the decline of the middle class in Korea, but many Canadians are likely feeling stung too.”


Professor Hae Yeon Choo’s research centers on gender, citizenship, transnational migration, and urban sociology to examine global social inequality. In her empirical and theoretical work, she employs an intersectional approach to social inequalities, integrating gender, race, and class in her analyses.

Her book Decentering Citizenship: Gender, Labor, and Migrant Rights in South Korea (Stanford University Press 2016) and related articles (published in Gender & Society and Qualitative Sociology) offer an account of how inequalities of gender, race, and class affect migrants’ practice of rights through a comparative study of three groups of Filipina women in South Korea—factory workers, wives of South Korean men, and hostesses at American military camptown clubs.

More on Professor Hae Yeon Choo, her accomplishments, and her publications can be found here.