'Squid Game' global craze hits Vietnam too

By Dang Khoa, Long NguyenNovember 4, 2021 | 05:00 pm PT
The dystopian South Korean drama series 'Squid Game' has sparked a craze among Vietnamese.

Videos with the hashtag #trochoiconmuc (‘Tro Choi Con Muc’ is the Vietnamese name of ‘Squid Game’) have garnered more than 457 million views on the short video platform TikTok.

The deadly South Korean sweet treat from the series, known as Dalgona candy, or honeycomb toffee, has taken social media by storm. In the last few weeks its recipe has generated a lot of buzz among Vietnamese netizens, who record videos of themselves making the candy in various shapes.

In the series, the game is all about scraping away the outside of the candy to get the stamped shape out without breaking it.

Young people have been sharing recipes, trying the challenge out, and re-enacting the episode [involving the candy], attracting huge attention on social networks.

The South Korean series 'Squid Game' has sparked many trends among young Vietnamese in the last few weeks, from creating Dalgona candies to dressing up as characters in the series.


People try out the Dalgona candy challenge at a coffee shops in Hanoi's Ba Dinh District. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Ngoan

Since premiering on Sept. 17, the nine-episode show on global streaming service Netflix has become number one in over 90 countries and territories.

Directed and written by Hwang Dong-hyuk, its plot is about contestants who are in so much debt that they ended up competing in classic children's games for $38 million cash prizes.

The twist is that debt-ridden participants are not simply competing for money: they are also playing for their lives. Losing means death.

Le Petit Moment Cafe, a coffee shop in Hanoi's Ba Dinh District, quickly grasped the trend and began offering the do-or-die candy challenge for customers who want to put their scraping skills to the test while enjoying a sugar high.

Van, the shop's owner, said she started offering this candy-splitting game on Oct. 15, one day after Hanoi permitted dine-in customers.

Van explained why she came up with the idea of offering the candies at her café: "‘Squid Game’ was so popular that it created many social media trends, including the Dalgona candy challenge. Many people try making the candy at home but fail".

She said her shop attracts hundreds of visitors every day as a result.

"My shop sells 100 to 150 candies during weekdays. But on weekends the number doubles, even triples". She said she has to refuse customers who order a large number of the candies."

"I have sold over 3,000 Dalgona candies so far".

Young customers come to the shop to play, some people buy up to 10 pieces after failing many times.

"I traveled more than 15 km from Gia Lam District to this shop because of this ‘Squid Game’ candy," Nguyen Van Dung, 20, said.

She bought a star-shaped and heart-shaped candy each for VND58,000 ($2.56).

In HCMC too, some restaurants have introduced the trendy candy in their menus.

Vietnamese dress up as their favorite characters from Squid Games. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy and photo courtesy of Lam

Vietnamese dress up as their favorite characters from 'Squid Games'. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy and photo courtesy of Tam

Clothes shops began to sell costumes inspired by characters in the series, especially before the recent Halloween.

A quick search for 'Squid Game' costumes on Facebook turns up hundreds of online stores and e-commerce sites.

"I am a huge fan of the show and wanted to dress up in a red uniform and black mask like a guard from the show like my friends," Nguyen Thanh Trung of Hanoi’s Long Bien District said.

During the spooky weekend, young people thronged the streets of Hanoi and HCMC dressed like the players, guards or the giant creepy doll from the show.

Some celebrities have also joined in.

Actress Ngoc Thanh Tam recently turned heads with a costume mimicking that of the creepy 'Red Light and Green Light' doll.

She covered her body with silver paint to make her own version of the character and invited children in her neighborhood to take pictures.

Many Vietnamese versions of games from the series have been held, attracting hundreds of participants.

In Hanoi, a five-star hotel last week organized a ‘Squid Game’ competition involving games from the series like ‘Red Light, Green Light’ and ‘Dalgona candy’.

In the show, the doll turns its head and says "Red light, green light" when contestants move toward the finish line.

In the game at the hotel, the doll was replaced by a person dressed up and wearing a mask. And, of course, unlike in the brutal episode in the series, this person did not have the ability to injure players.

A resort in Nha Trang Town organized a Squid Game episode last week, eliminating losers using water guns.

Around 200 people took part in a game organized in northern Quang Ninh Province in early October.

"I joined the game because I am so into the series and wanted to feel the tension and competitiveness like the players in it," Trung Nghia, 24, who took part in the game in Hanoi on Oct. 30, said.

Trung Nghia (R) participates in a ‘Squid Game’ competition in Hanoi, October 2021. Photo courtesy of Nghia

Trung Nghia (R) participates in a ‘Squid Game’ competition in Hanoi, October 2021. Photo courtesy of Nghia

‘Squid Game’ is yet another manifestation of South Korea’s recent cultural success.

The widespread popularity of K-pop and South Korean movies are part of the global Korean Wave, which started in some Asian countries including Vietnam in the 2000s, and has strengthened since.

A 2019 survey by HCMC market research firm Q&Me found that 51 percent of Vietnamese like Korean pop music, and 68 percent like South Korean dramas.

Vietnamese people’s preference for Korean TV dramas is clear from the daily chart of Netflix Vietnam in which they account for seven of the top 10 shows.

The ‘Squid Game’ craze shows no signs of stopping, and remains the fourth most-watched on Netflix in Vietnam nearly two months after it began.

"I will ask some other friends to play the Dalgona candy game with me next weekend," Le Thu Ha, an accountant in Hanoi’s Ha Dong District, said.

"I have just finished watching the show and am now officially a fan".

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