Would you risk your life playing kids' games if it meant winning a literal fortune? The surprise hit Korean drama Squid Game has captivated audiences, depicting a brutal competition for 456 billion Korean won (about $38 million). The nine-episode K-drama has hit No.1 on the Netflix Top 10, with millions of viewers following its cast of all-star Korean actors as they form alliances and enemies through deadly versions of Red Light, Green Light, and other children's games. For fans who've torn through the series and become attached to the talented cast, here's everything we know about the characters and actors of Squid Game.
Lee Jung-jae as Seong Gi-hun (456)
A man down on his luck, Gi-hun is a gambling addict who works as a chauffeur and lives with his elderly mother. He enters the game with the hope of making enough money to keep his 10-year-old daughter from moving to America with her mom and stepdad. Lee, 48, is best known in Korea for appearing in the films Il Mare (2000), which was later remade into The Lake House with Keanu Reeves, and The Face Reader (2013).
Park Hae-soo as Cho Sang-woo (218)
Sang-woo, Gi-hun's childhood friend, is a neighborhood legend for attending South Korea's top university. The investment banker later stole money from his clients and lost it in the stock market, and he needs to win the game to avoid arrest and keep his mother's house and business. Park, 39, is best known for his lead role in one of the most popular K-dramas ever, Prison Playbook (2017).
Sae-byeok is a North Korean defector who works as a pickpocket while her younger brother lives in an orphanage. She needs enough money to get her mother out of the North, and to buy a house for her family. Squid Game is Jung's first on-screen role. The 27-year-old model previously appeared on Season 4 of Korea’s Next Top Model.
Cop Jun-ho finds a game card while searching his missing brother's apartment. He then sneaks his way into the game as a guard to take down the operation and find his brother. Wi, 30, is an up-and-coming film and k-drama actor, with roles in the horror flick Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018) and the romantic drama Something in the Rain (2018). He also played a serial killer this year in the film Midnight.
Oh Young-soo as Oh Il-nam (001)
Il-nam, the oldest contestant in the game, befriends Gi-hun early on. Doctors have diagnosed a tumor in his brain, and he's playing to provide for his family. Oh, 76, has mostly played monk roles in his acting career, including the films A Little Monk (2003) and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003).
Heo Sung-tae as Jang Deok-su (101)
Gangster Deok-su joined the game to pay off gambling debts after pissing off his crime boss. He's the closest the show has to a player-antagonist, and he has a history with Sae-byeok. Heo, 43, has an impressive career as a k-drama actor, with multiple roles this year. These include Beyond Evil, where he plays a similarly cold-blooded businessman, and Racket Boys, where he does a full 180 as the coach of a boys badminton team in Episodes 10-12.
Kim Joo-ryung as Han Mi-nyeo (212)
Mi-nyeo is a mysterious player who will do or say anything to win the game, including seduction and begging. We never really learn why she's playing, though she claims to be a new mother. Kim, 45, has had minor roles in several successful dramas and films, including SKY Castle and Mr. Sunshine. She played the female lead in the 2012 film Sleepless Night, as one half of a married couple going through daily life. She also worked with Squid Game director Hwang Dong-hyuk before, on his film Silenced (2011).
Tripathi Anupam as Ali Abdul (199)
Kind-hearted Ali came to Korea from Pakistan to work, with his wife and baby son in tow. Scammed by his employers, he plans to support his family with the prize money, and send some to his parents and brother back home. Indian-born Anupam is Squid Game's other breakout actor. He's previously only had minor roles, including one in the Netflix film Space Sweepers (2021).
Lee Yoo-mi as Ji-yeong (240)
Mysterious Ji-yeong becomes Sae-byeok's ally when they team up for the tug-of-war round. She's mostly quiet, though she's quick to stand up to other players' hypocrisy. Lee, 27, has had steady film and TV work since 2010; her most prominent show before Squid Game was the sci-fi drama 365: Repeat the Year.
Yu Seong-ju as the doctor, Byeong-ki (111)
The doctor, who goes unnamed during the series, has a source on the inside who tells him the Game rounds ahead of time. He uses the advantage to team up with Deok-su and his gang for protection. Yu got his first prominent role on SKY Castle in 2018 and has starred in several dramas since. He has even worked with Lee Jung-jae, on the political drama Chief of Staff.
Lee Byung-hun as The Front Man
Lee plays the masked Front Man, who runs the day-to-day operations of the game. He watches from above in an ultra-lux apartment and maintains contact with the higher-ups in the twisted operation. The 51-year-old actor has been one of Korea's most successful actors for decades, appearing in five out of the 50 top-grossing Korean films of all time. He's also appeared in American films, including the G.I. Joe franchise and Terminator Genisys, and he was the first South Korean to present at the Academy Awards.
The ultra-famous Korean actor makes a cameo as The Salesman, the man who recruits Gi-hun into the Squid Game with a game of ddakji on the subway. Yoo, 42, has appeared in some of the most internationally-known Korean media. He starred in the hit film Train to Busan (2016) as a father and businessman trying to escape the zombie apocalypse on a bullet train, and played the titular immortal goblin in Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (2016), one of the most successful k-dramas of all time. As for how he ended up on Squid Game, he starred in Hwang Dong-hyuk's film Silenced in 2011.
Quinci LeGardye is a Contributing Culture Editor who covers TV, movies, Korean entertainment, books, and pop culture. When she isn’t writing or checking Twitter, she’s probably watching the latest K-drama or giving a concert performance in her car.
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