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Squid Game Star Lee Jung-Jae Clarifies His Thoughts On The Series' Runaway International Success - Exclusive

"Hunt" director Lee Jung-jae had an award-winning and wide-ranging career before gaining international fame with the record-setting series "Squid Game," in which a host of characters drowning in debt and helplessness sign up for a series of deadly versions of children's games for the promise of a financial windfall. Lee Jung-jae plays Seong Gi-hun, a gambler in debt who wins 100.000 won against a mysterious salesman in a game of Ddakji. It opens up an opportunity to win massive amounts of money, which Seong Gi-hun wants to win back custody of his daughter, get out of debt, and pay off his mother's bills ... but like all contestants of the games, he gets more than he bargains for. The show is a stunning indictment of modern capitalism, and one relatable on a worldwide scale.

In an interview with The Guardian, Lee Jung-jae referred to the series' massive success as "bittersweet," noting that he was happy with it and the widespread resonance of Korean content around the globe, but that he found it "worrying" that so many viewers connected with the lengths characters went to acquire personal wealth. In a new exclusive interview with Looper, the multi-hyphenate star clarified his sentiments, reiterating his appreciation for audiences' embrace of Korean content and laying out his hopes for viewer responses to the series' second season.

Lee Jung-jae hopes audiences continue connecting to Season 2

Looper caught up with Lee Jung-jae for his directorial debut espionage thriller "Hunt," but we also asked him about his earlier thoughts on the "bittersweet" nature of the success of "Squid Game" and what effect he'd like to see Season 2 of the series have on audiences.

"I actually don't quite remember the 'bitter' of the 'bittersweet' comment," he explained. "The theme that we wanted to convey was perfectly well conveyed, and a lot of the international audiences seem to have sympathized with the theme as well." International connection is right, as the series netted a record-setting level of viewership for streaming titan Netflix. Consequently, "I would say it was a big success, so I didn't really have any bitter sentiments," he said.

It's understandable to have a level of concern that so many viewers worldwide found resonance in a series that centers on people as desperate as the characters in "Squid Game." We're talking about characters in such desperation they'd both risk their lives and send others to their deaths to get out of dire conditions. At the same time, Lee Jung-jae hopes that audiences find meaning in the second season, too.

"For this [next] season, as well," he claimed, "we will put a lot of effort into making sure that the theme we want to convey is a theme that the audience can sympathize with." Maintaining audience engagement and connection is, of course, a challenge for every series — and a particularly hefty one when a series is as popular as "Squid Game" — but Lee Jung-jae is embracing that challenge, betting on a season that's sure to once more hit home for so many.

"Hunt" is available in theaters and on VOD.