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'Squid Game' star reflects on the global allure of South Korean culture

Park Hae-soo was working at a BBQ restaurant when the 'hallyu' boom hit

"Squid Game" star Park Hae-soo: "Becoming an international actor wasn't really at the forefront of my mind," says Park.  

When the word hallyu became a household term in South Korea, Park Hae-soo, the actor who plays the calculating Cho Sang-woo in "Squid Game," had just graduated from high school and was preparing to be a theater major. "That was the early 2000s," he says from the theater stalls of Seoul's LG Arts Center, where he has performed many times. "I was probably working at a barbecue or sushi restaurant, turning meat or rolling udon noodles."

Hallyu, or "Korean wave," refers to the global popularity of the nation's culture. K-pop band BTS, Oscar-winning film "Parasite," Netflix show "Squid Game" and more have captivated many in recent years. But for South Koreans, hallyu has been decades in the making. "In the 2000s I saw Korean dramas beginning to ride the wave, spreading globally," says Park. "I remember performing in Seoul's Myeongdong Theater; there were always tourists in the area buying K-contents, including K-beauty products."

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