‘Squid Game’ gets called out for ‘botched’ Korean translations

“Squid Game” is in the headlines again over yet more troubling details about the Netflix show’s production.

Comedy writer and fluent Korean speaker Youngmi Mayer took to social media this week to call out the show, currently the streaming platform’s No. 1 series, for shoddy Korean-English translation work.

Based in South Korea, the show depicts hundreds of cash-strapped citizens participating in a tournament of deadly children’s games and puzzles, with one exceptional final contestant destined to a reward of life-changing riches. The fact that the players are of various disadvantaged and otherwise low-income backgrounds is critical to the nuance of the translation, according to Mayer — but that is completely missed in the English translation of the show.

Mayer shared a TikTok video explaining that “if you don’t understand Korean you didn’t really watch the same show,” she said in a Thursday tweet with more than 78,000 likes. “The dialogue was written so well and zero of it was preserved.”

Referring to the “gangster” character Han Mi-nyeo (played by Kim Joo-Ryoung), Mayer said her dialogue “constantly gets botched,” explaining that “she cusses a lot and it gets very sterilized.”

Youngmi Mayer claimed the Korean-to-English translation in “Squid Game” had been “sterilized” for American audiences.

“She says [in Korean], ‘What are you looking at?’ It’s turned into, ‘Go away [in subtitles],’ ” she noted in a video initially posted to TikTok and reshared via Twitter, amassing more than 4 million views between the two sites. “Which might seem arbitrary … You’re missing a lot of this character and what she stands for.”

At another point, Mi-nyeo is quoted in subtitles as saying, “I’m not a genius, but I can work it out,” according to Mayer.

“It seems so small, but it’s the character’s entire purpose for being in the f – – kin’ show!”

fluent Korean speaker Youngmi Mayer

“What she actually said was, ‘I am very smart — I just never got a chance to study.’ That is a huge trope in Korean media: The poor person that’s smart and clever and just isn’t wealthy. That’s a huge part of her character,” Mayer said.

“The [original Korean] writers, all they want you to know about her is that. It seems so small, but it’s the character’s entire purpose for being in the f – – kin’ show!”

Mayer was later quick to defend translators on Twitter: “Translators are underpaid and overworked and it’s not their fault. it’s the fault of producers who don’t appreciate the art.”

Days before, another fan shared a similar gripe.

“Who wrote this caption I just want to talk about how f - - king wrong this translation is,” vented storyboard artist Andrew Minghee Kim. A screenshot from “Squid Game” attached to the tweet depicts one of the show’s characters on the phone with his mother as she tells him, “I’m just worried that you might get me, you know, something that’s really way too expensive.”

Kim argued, in Mayer’s thread, that the line should have been something closer to, “You don’t need to buy me anything just take care of yourself.”

This is just the latest controversy to emerge from the show’s Sept. 17 debut, as the #SquidGame hashtag rises to nearly 19 billion tagged videos on TikTok alone. The rapid success of the show prompted one South Korean broadband provider to sue Netflix over a surge in traffic in the country, the benefits of which allegedly are seen only by Netflix, and not the company facilitating the show’s broadcast.

More attacks came last week as news broke that a South Korean business owner had been bombarded with thousands of calls and texts because the viral show’s writers and producers had used a real phone number during a number of scenes. Netflix and Cyron Pictures have said they’re working to resolve the matter.

The streaming giant’s Philippines branch has also apparently been busy promoting the smash series in their country — by installing a creepy, supersized replica of the killer animatronic children’s doll in a shopping mall in Quezon City. The doll is featured during the notorious “Red Light, Green Light, 1-2-3” game scene, in which those who fail to freeze on command are identified and shot down by the robot.

Fans continued to echo Mayer and Kim’s critiques — of the show and Netflix at large — including several who said their viewing was “ruined” by the wonky translations.

“Honestly I ruined my non-Korean partner’s viewing of the show cuz every 3 minutes I’d go “BUT THATS NOT EVEN WHAT SHE SAID LEMME EXPLAIN WHAT A MORE ACCURATE TRANSLATION WOULD HAVE BEEN!!!” said one.

Added another, “Every five minutes while we were watching Squid Game [my partner] kept saying ‘that’s not really what they said’ so I feel like I missed out on quite a bit.”

Journalist Delia Harrington alleged the problem is bigger than just that particular show.

“I’ve noticed Netflix cuts out swears, needlessly condenses things (sometimes at the expense of meaning), and often takes out the most salacious/suggestive language from their subs,” Harrington wrote. “That’s not how translation and closed captioning works!!!”

Netflix did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.


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