Phone numbers shown on ‘Squid Game’ spawn harassment of real people in Korea

Published September 25, 2021, 7:02 PM

by Jonathan Hicap

“Squid Game,” the new Korean series on Netflix, has enjoyed immense popularity abroad including placing No. 1 among shows in the US on the OTT platform.

But back home, several people are suffering from harassment and prank calls due to the phone numbers used in “Squid Game.”

(Clockwise from left) Business owner Kim Gil-young complained that she has been getting many calls due to “Squid Game,” the calling card and phone number shown on the show, which turned out to be a real phone number (screenshot from SBS News video, Netflix)

“Squid Game,” released on Netflix on Sept. 17, tells the story of 456 people who participate in a mysterious and deadly survival game with a 45.6 billion won ($38.5 million) prize at stake.

In the series, people are given calling cards with a phone number to call if they wish to participate in the game.

In the first episode, Gong Yoo, who plays an unnamed character, gives Ki-hoon (played by Lee Jung-jae) a calling card.

The eight-digit phone number on the card was shown on “Squid Game” without the prefix “010,” which is used by mobile phone carriers in Korea.

It turned out it is a real number and the person who uses it has suffered from seemingly endless calls and text messages from people including those who said they want to participate in the game.

Victim A, who has been using the phone number for 10 years told Korean media outlet Money Today, “Since the airing of ‘Squid Game,’ I receive so many texts and calls 24 hours a day that my daily life has become difficult.”

“I have deleted more than 4,000 phone numbers until recently. My cell phone battery gets drained in half a day due to curious calls day and night without any concept of time,” Victim A added.

A Netflix official was quoted by SBS News as saying, “We are working to resolve the issue amicably with the number owner.”

Kim Gil-young, a business owner in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province in South Korea, told SBS News that she has become a victim of many phone calls since Sept. 17 after her cell phone number was shown on “Squid Game.”

One caller told her that he has a debt of 1.2 billion won ($1 million) and wants to participate in the squid game.

An official of the series’ production company said the inclusion of her number in “Squid Game” was unintentional but suggested that the only way is for her to change her cell phone number.

Kim, who has been using the number for 20 years, said the production company offered a compensation of 1 million won ($847).

Under Korea’s law Personal Information Protection Act, disclosure of mobile phone number is prohibited.

Another victim told Money Today he received more than 2,000 calls and texts from 6 p.m. on Sept. 22 to 4 p.m. of Sept. 23.

He said that he only slept for two hours as he suffered from phone calls and text messages all night, and said he also gets calls during business hours.

Callers told him, “I want to participate in the squid game,” and hung up. He added that young students make a lot of phone calls and make jokes.

“Squid Game” has achieved success, getting the No. 1 spot in the US among Netflix shows and other countries such as the Philippines.

 
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