The Real Backstory Behind Gong Yoo’s “Squid Game” Character — Director Reveals All
Netflix‘s Squid Game left us with several unanswered questions by the first season’s finale. But one of the biggest mysteries that almost every veteran K-Drama fan wants explained is the truth about Gong Yoo‘s enigmatic character, the Salesman. But rest assured, you won’t have to wait until season two to find out more—Squid Game‘s writer and director Hwang Dong Hyuk actually revealed the Salesman’s backstory in a new interview with The Chosun Ilbo.
As the star of some of Korea’s biggest productions, from Train to Busan to Goblin, 42-year-old Gong Yoo is undoubtedly one of the most popular Hallyu actors in the world. So, it’s no surprise that veteran K-Drama viewers were excited to see the star appear in the first episode of Squid Game as the Salesman.
When the Salesman meets the main character Seong Gi Hun (played by Lee Jung Jae) at a subway station, he challenges the out-of-luck man to a game of ddakji—and later, he offers Gi Hun the chance to participate in the titular Squid Game.
But while Gong Yoo’s character is the instrumental catalyst who thrusts viewers into the brutal Squid Game trials, he doesn’t appear again until the show’s very last episode. Even then, he once again appears only briefly, leaving viewers everywhere curious about the Salesman’s story. But while many were expecting they’d never find out the truth unless Squid Game gets a season two, the show’s writer-director recently explained the Salesman’s backstory in an interview.
“I know there are a lot of theories going on about the Salesman,” Hwang Dong Hyuk admitted, but added, “These viewers are definitely more creative than I am.” If you had a wild theory about the Salesman’s involvement, you may be surprised to learn that his backstory isn’t all that complex.
Hwang Dong Hyuk went on to explain that when he was first writing up the plot, he decided the Salesman was a former staff member from the Squid Game who earned the trust of the game’s creator, Oh Il Nam (Oh Yeong Su), over time. After raising his position, Hwang Dong Hyuk says Gong Yoo’s Salesman character was given the opportunity to work “outside the game in the ‘real world.'”
On top of finally putting our Gong Yoo queries to rest, Hwang Dong Hyuk also addressed another popular theory regarding the colored tiles the Salesman presented to Seong Gi Hun when the played ddakji. Gi Hun chose the blue tile and became a Squid Game player, but many viewers have been hypothesizing that if he chose the red tile, he would’ve been recruited as a member of the game’s staff. But is that theory accurate?
If Hwang Dong Hyuk’s words are anything to go by, maybe not. In reality, the colors selected were connected to urban legend rather than the plot itself. In both Japan and Korea, ghost lore speaks of a masked spirit who appears in bathrooms and offers the occupants the choice of red or blue toilet paper. According to the urban legend, no matter which option you choose, the ghost will kill you. “I went with those colors because of the typical Korean scary story,” says Hwang.
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