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What The Symbols On The Workers' Mask Really Mean In Squid Game

"Squid Game" is the new South Korean survival drama that combines brutal action with incisive social commentary into one disturbing package. The show follows a group of 456 desperate people who participate in a deadly series of children's games for a big cash prize, all for the amusement of the rich. As creator Hwang Dong-hyuk told Netflix, "I wanted to write a story that was an allegory or fable about modern capitalist society, something that depicts an extreme competition, somewhat like the extreme competition of life."

As such, "Squid Game" is full of symbolism, especially when it comes to colors and, well, symbols. One of the biggest enigmas in the first season are the contest's rank-and-file workers, who all wear red jumpsuits and masks with different shapes on them. The show never reveals who these people are or how they came to work for the games, but there are plenty of fan theories that might provide an explanation. Some believe the employees are the people who chose the red card when approached by the Salesman (Gong Yoo), while others believe they're former contest winners (and since each contest only has one survivor, that would mean the games have been held a LOT of times.)

Then there are the masks, which have either a circle, triangle, or square. Thanks to Hwang and the show's costume designer, Chae Kyung-Sun, we now can at least know what those symbols represent.

The workers' mask symbols represent their social ranking

In an interview with Netflix Korea, Hwang and the show's costume designer, Chae Kyung-Sun, explained the meaning behind the contest employees' red jumpsuits, and specifically the symbols on their masks. It seems that just like society overall has a hierarchy, the game's organizers have a class system, too. Overall, Hwang and Chae wanted the workers to seem like ants in an ant colony, which is how they landed on the jumpsuits. "At first, I wanted a boy scout-like outfit but it showed the men's figures too well," Hwang explained. "It didn't really make them look like ants in an ant colony. They needed to cover their entire body. And the best option to keep them anonymous was a jumpsuit. With a hoodie too, because they need to cover their faces (via KoreaBoo)." And just like ants in a colony, the employees have designated roles, which are denoted by the marks on their masks. "Circles are workers, triangles represent armed soldiers, while squares are for managers," Hwang explained (per Somag News). 

As for why those specific symbols were chosen, it's because they represent letters of the Korean alphabet. The circle is the letter "O," the triangle is part of the letter "J," and the square is the letter "M." And "OJM" are the initials for the Korean name for the squid game, "Ojingeo Geim" (via The Tab).

That's one mystery solved, but many more are still unexplained. Hopefully we'll get more answers if and when we get "Squid Game" Season 2