Korean actor Lee Jung-jae won outstanding lead actor in a drama series at Monday’s Emmy Awards, with director Hwang Dong-hyuk taking the award for top director of the same. Set in Seoul, the dystopian series which became the biggest show in Netflix’s history saw hundreds of contestants in need of money play deadly children’s games to win cash prizes. Lee played Player 456, a single cash-strapped father who entered the game and ultimately won. The show became a pop culture phenomenon when it debuted last September and was the first non-English language series nominated for the outstanding drama series at this year’s awards. It received 14 nominations at this year’s awards.
After being awarded the Emmy for outstanding director in a drama series, Lee Yong-joon thanked director Hwang Dong-hyuk “for making a realistic problem we all face come to life so creatively on the screen with a great script and amazing visuals.” The show’s creator, Hwang said he hoped his Emmy as outstanding director in a drama series won’t be his last. “I want to thank the TV Academy for this honor and also a huge thank-you to Netflix,” he said in his speech and gave a shout out to Netflix boss Ted Sarandos. “On to season two,” he told the audience.
In a previous interview with CNN, Hwang shared his inspiration for Squid Game, saying that it was “a personal story” that also reflected the “competitive society.” Hwang said – those who struggle through the challenges of everyday life and get left behind, while the “winners level up.” Back in South Korea, many shared pride for the Emmy wins. One South Korean viewer on Twitter called it a “historical moment” for Korea’s film industry. President Yoon Suk Yeol congratulated Hwang and Lee on their awards, and said Lee had honed his skills through dramas and movies. Actor Lee prevailed over nominees Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Jason Bateman (Ozark), Jeremy Strong (Succession), Adam Scott (Severance) and Brian Cox (Succession).