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It is not available in China but the global sensation of Netflix Squid game has already racked up huge success in the country, with fans dodging strict internet controls to air the show and snatching up merchandise such as her one-of-a-kind outfits.

The South Korean dystopian thriller has become the most popular Netflix series launch of all time, the streaming giant said on Tuesday, but it is unlikely to pass Chinese censorship due to its brutally violent content.

Still, it’s already a hit in cities like Shanghai, where a crowd formed Tuesday at a restaurant selling dalgona – the crispy sugar candy featured in one episode – with patrons gathering in front of its themed sign. of the Squid Game to take pictures.

“People were sending show-related jokes in group chats when I started watching,” a customer named Li told AFP.

“It’s pretty quick and therefore pretty exciting,” the video producer said of the series.

After buying the candy, Li and his friend filmed their attempt at the show’s challenge, where contestants attempt to cut shapes out of the snack without breaking it.

Squid Game features a group of the most marginalized and indebted people in society who are forced to participate in a series of children’s games until all but one of the participants are dead. The “winner” receives $ 38 million.

As the show became an international hit, ever-nimble Chinese manufacturers rushed to tap demand, with products – including hot pink uniforms and odd masks worn by anonymous guards – popping up on the platform. giant Taobao online shopping.

Salesperson Peng Xiuyang told AFP that his sales increased by around 30% thanks to demand for Squid Game products.

He had never heard of the show when a customer asked last month if he was selling the masks – a solid black coating printed with squares, triangles or circles.

But now sellers like him and plastics manufacturers in downtown Yiwu are all rushing to meet the demand – from domestic and international buyers.

“Our customers are the ones who have seen the series and want to join the trend,” he added.

As Halloween approached, spooky masks became her most sought-after product.

Illegal distribution

The lack of official availability hasn’t stopped Chinese audiences from finding ways to watch the show – including readily available unofficial streaming sites or file sharing.

The hacking problem is so widespread that South Korea’s Ambassador to China Jang Ha-sung recently said during a parliamentary audit that he called on Chinese authorities to take action.

“Our assessment is that Squid Game, which is growing in popularity around the world, is being illegally distributed on around 60 sites in China,” Jang said, testifying remotely from Beijing.

As fascination with the spectacle swirls among tech-savvy Chinese youth, the hashtag Squid game has gotten nearly two billion views on social media and related topics have been trending for weeks.

Users discussed how they would complete the challenges featured on the show and wondered what a Chinese version of Squid Game would look like.

But one user said: “It’s not like it would pass the censors if we did such a show ourselves… if it was too violent, it would just be deleted.”

For now, the fans just want to have fun.

A Shanghai customer named Yang said, “I have seen (the snack) sold online, but this is the first time I have found it in real life.