A TikTok video made by one Octopus game fan reveals that the series’ English subtitles are not often accurately translated into their Korean meaning. Octopus game is a survival drama written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk with a star cast of South Korean stars including Lee Jung-Jae, Park Hae-soo, Jung Ho-Yeon, Kim Joo-ryoung and O Yeong-su. The story revolves around a competition in which 456 players from all walks of life play a series of children’s games in an attempt to win the grand prize of .6 45.6 billion. (approximately $ 38.7 million). The cash prize can be enticing, but players soon discover that the consequence of not performing a task is instantly dead. Despite this, competitors are eagerly fighting for it for various personal reasons.
Although its plot may resemble other dystopian films such as Hunger Games, Octopus game praised for its impeccable production, exciting episodes and complex themes that highlight economic differences and human struggles. The Korean drama has been making waves around the world since its debut last September 17th. Currently, it is poised to become Netflix’s most watched series to date and maintain the top spot in the US and many other countries for several weeks now. Octopus game success has strengthened Netflix’s foreign programming and brought attention to other Korean dramas.
Despite its smashing success, there have been issues regarding Octopus game multilingual captions. There were several instances where the show’s English subtitles did not accurately translate the original meaning. TikTok user Youngmimayer, who is fluent in the Korean language, pointed this out in a series of videos and tweets. She quoted many scenes “break” including Mi-nyeo (Kim Joo-ryoung) and Oh Il-nam (O Yeong-su). Although most translation misses are minor, some dialogues do not capture the exact context of the Korean language. One such example is when Mi-nyeo tries to convince other people to play with her. The English subtitles read, “I’m not a genius, but I can figure it out.” That Octopus game fan translated it to: “I’m very smart; I’m just never had the opportunity to study.” Read her explanation of why this is a massive departure from its literal meaning:
It is a huge trope in Korean media. The poor person who is smart and smart and just not wealthy. That’s a big part of her character. Almost everything she said gets ruined in translation, but you just missed everything the author wants you to know about her. It seems so small, but it’s the whole character’s purpose to be in that f *** ing show!
Another important scene that Netflix’s English subtitles did not translate correctly is when Oh Il-nam says “gganbu” while talking to Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae). The subtitle translated the Korean term as “we share everything” which should be “there is no ownership between me and you.” These seemingly smaller lines contain deeper meanings in the Korean language that foreign viewers cannot see because the caption is not accurate.
It is quite common for foreign films and series to cause some scenes to be lost in translation due to linguistic and cultural differences. Whether dubbed or subtitled, there will always be restrictions when translating a spoken language. Fortunately, today’s viewers are more connected via social media, where fans can healthily exchange views and thoughts about their favorite shows. Octopus game is a Korean production, but its global success proves that universal themes of hope, family, and equality can be appreciated by audiences of all backgrounds.
Source: Youngmimayer / TikTok