Netflix announced it will need to edit already released scenes of the popular Korean drama Squid Game, after real phone numbers on the show led to countless prank calls. Fans of the series had been dialing the numbers frequently. As a result many South Koreans have been bombarded with calls at all hours of the day.
“I cannot focus because unknown numbers are repeatedly calling me,” said Kim Gil-young. She told CNN that she has had that phone number for over 16 years, and has been heavily distracted in her dessert shop by the sheer number of prank calls.
Kim Gil-young said that the calls led her doctor to diagnose her with acute stress disorder, and that she can no longer tell the difference between prank calls and “genuine business.”
“I had past customers who called to complain that they cannot get a hold of me,” she said. “One caller asked for the product but when I offered it, said they were joking and hung up.”
The popular series, detailing a sadistic, dystopian game where people in debt can compete in dangerous challenges to win money, displayed various phone numbers throughout the show, designed as numbers belonging to the criminal organization that puts on the “game.”
Many fans have been calling the numbers in jest just to see if they were real, not expecting that they would lead to actual people. Fans thought the numbers might lead to promotional material for the show.
Kim revealed that hundreds of anonymous callers ask her if her number is the one to call if you want to play the titular “Squid Game.”
Kim Gil-young said that the production company offered her one million South Korean won (approximately $840) to pay for a new phone, but Kim said she had already paid for advertisements for her business that featured her current phone number.
“They said they are sorry but honestly, I’m not sure if they are genuinely sorry,” she said. “I wonder if they would have reacted the same if I weren’t an individual but a major company.”
According to Fortune, Squid Game has become one of Netflix’s biggest hits, going to #1 globally. While Netflix has yet to release the streaming numbers, the trailer for the series on YouTube has amassed over 20 million views.
Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s Global TV chief, said that ratings for Korean dramas on the platform have been up by 200%.
Another unidentified man told The Washington Post that he receives thousands of calls a day due to his phone number being displayed on the show. He said that he receives a call roughly every 20 seconds.
A small business owner in his mid-40s, the man now needs medication to fall asleep at night. He too, cannot change his number easily since it is linked to his business. He told reporters that his wife has also been receiving some calls since her number is similar to his but with just one number off.
“I haven’t even watched ‘Squid Game'” he told local reporters. “It’s so stressful but there’s nothing I can do.”
In the U.S., Hollywood can choose from a list of 100 different variations of phone numbers to use in their television shows and movies that begin with “555,” The Washington Post reported, but Netflix’ South Korean production company, Siren Pictures, somehow averted this rule.
According to Reuters, the Korean Film Council offers filmmakers a similar service of phone numbers that are not used in real life, but television services like Netflix do not have access to that directory.
Speaking with CNN, Netflix said that “together with the production company, we are working to resolve this matter, including editing scenes with phone numbers where necessary.”