Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Surprising Origins Of Squid Game's Iconic Doll

Part of the unique charm that has turned Netflix's "Squid Game" into such a worldwide phenomenon is the way it takes elements of everyday life and well-known cultural artifacts, and turns them into instruments of terror and despair. For South Koreans, the children's games that the show uses are so ubiquitous to the cultural experience that the Korean Cultural Center in the United Arab Emirates actually set up a non-fatal real-life version of "Squid Game." Even the viewers who aren't intimately familiar with the culture will sense that the show's deadly games are rooted in reality, as they enjoy the many plot twists, Easter eggs, and amazing visuals.

One of the most iconic elements in the show is the giant Red Light, Green Light doll that's the linchpin of the show's extremely deadly first game. For the viewers and contestants alike, the giant, animatronic little girl that scans the participants for movement and marks them for death is the first real taste of the ruthless nature of the games, and the juxtaposition of its childish, recorded voice and mechanic, uncaring movements is the stuff of nightmares. But how, exactly, did the people behind the game come up with the doll's unnerving design? Let's take a look at the surprising origins of "Squid Game's" iconic doll.

The Squid Game doll is a character from South Korean school textbooks

For South Korean viewers, the "Squid Game" doll has an extra layer of creepiness, because it's a very familiar and lovable figure from their school days. In an interview with "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" (via The Hollywood Reporter), actress Jung Ho-yeon (who plays Sae-byeok in the show) shared the origins of the memorable character. 

"When we were at the school, there were characters — one is a boy, and one is the girl," she said. "The boy's name was Chulsoo, and the girl's name was Younghee, and she's the one."

That's right — while non-Korean viewers "only" see an unnerving giant doll with a targeting system that guns down everyone who loses the Red Light, Green Light game, Korean viewers have to witness an actual, beloved figure from their childhood killing characters by the hundred. Ah, "Squid Game," you always have room for yet another layer of existential horror.