A South Korean labour union has drawn inspiration from global hit series Squid Game for its recent mass protest that demanded better labour protection
On Wednesday, 20 October, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) staged a nationwide protest, in which the group called for participation using Squid Game-themed posters and promotional videos.
According to CBS News, about 16,000 people joined the demonstrations across the country, with majority of protestors gathering at Seoul.
Among the large group, about 80 youth union members dressed up in costumes that parodied Squid Game.
Squid Game is said to be Netflix's biggest series of all time. The nine-episode thriller series features debt-laden characters participating in a deadly fight for KRW45.6 billion (about RM160 million).
Reuters quoted KCTU as saying that protestors' Squid Game cosplay "bitterly satirises the bare face of our society".
Based on the photos published online, the protestors can be seen wearing red hoodies and game controller icon face masks — a reference to the guards in the series
Protestors in Squid Game outfits and others alike held placards with various messages during the protest.
Some of the signs read "Inequality Out" and "Safe Youth Employment; Quality Youth Employment", reported Reuters based on a video uploaded by KCTU.
According to The Straits Times' South Korea correspondent, the group demanded better working conditions for irregular workers and an increase of minimum wage.
Irregular workers in the country do not receive the full benefits under the local law. The affected group includes temporary workers and contract workers.
It is said that about 1,000 delivery workers, largely employed under the gig economy, turned off their phone apps to join the strike.
As of August last year, irregular workers accounted for 36.1% of total salaried workers.
Non-profit news organisation Truth Out reported earlier this week that half a million workers were expected to walk off their jobs in a one-day general strike on 20 October.
KCTU said some 80,000 members joined rallies across 13 cities on Wednesday, causing severe traffic congestion and public disruption, reported The Straits Times.
It is learnt that 12,000 police officers were deployed to set up 'bus walls' and fences to prevent people from gathering at Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul.
Gwanghwamun Plaza is just a stone's throw away from tourist and historical landmark Gyeongbokgung Palace.
South Korea has several trade unions with a long history of activism.
Protests for better labour rights have become an annual event in recent years, which resulted in workers gaining better benefits.
However, this time, the government urged KCTU — which has 1.1 million members — to not go forward with the demonstration as it would complicate the nation's COVID-19 recovery progress.
The police said they will pursue legal action against the organisers.
In response, KCTU spokesperson Han Sang-jin contended that not only do the restrictions violate the basic rights granted by the Constitution, but it is also unfair that outdoor rallies are seen as more dangerous than sporting events, where more spectators are allowed, reported Reuters.
South Korea reported 1,441 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the tally to 347,529 infections in the 51 million population country.