Monday was another big night for international entertainment with an Emmy win for Lee Jung-jae and Hwang Dong-hyuk of Squid Game.
Lee, the star of Netflix’s South Korean international hit series, is the first Asian star to win best male actor in a drama series. Likewise, series creator Hwang took home the trophy for best director of a drama series, another Emmy first for an Asian director.
“Thank you to the television academy, thank you to Netflix, thank you to director Hwang [Dong-hyuk] for making this realistic problem we all face come to life so creatively on the screen with a great script and amazing visuals,” Lee said.
Hwang, meanwhile, appeared overwhelmed but nevertheless in good humor when he accepted his award.
“I don’t think I can use my translator, because I have 45 — 41 seconds now,” he said to laughs in the audience.
“I want to thank the TV academy for this honor, and a huge thank you to Netflix’s Ted Sarandos — I mentioned your name, OK?” he continued. “Since Squid Game got 14 nominations at the Emmys, people keep telling me I made history, but I don’t think I made history by myself. Because it was you who opened up the doors for Squid Game, inviting us here tonight at the Emmys. So I believe, I have to say, we all made history together.”
“I truly hope Squid Game won’t be the last non-English series to be here at the Emmys, and I also hope this won’t be my last Emmy either,” he concluded.
Squid Game is a dystopian thriller in which people desperate for money are forced to compete in increasingly deadly games in hopes of winning a huge cash prize. The series proved a surprise hit for Netflix, earning more and more viewers each week through positive word of mouth.
Lee and Hwang’s Emmy victories are the latest in a trend that began with the success of the South Korean film Parasite, which won Best Picture, Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director for Bong Joon-ho. Like Squid Game, Parasite is a twist-filled thriller that touches on modern themes of worsening income inequality.