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In Squid Game, Gi-hun (Player 456) and Sang-woo (Player 218) are both identified as being from Ssangmun-dong. Ali (Player 199) initially thought that Gi-hun's name was "Ssangmun-dong" since Gi-hun introduced himself as being from that area. While Gi-hun proudly identifies as being from Ssangmun-dong, Deok-su (Player 101) calls Gi-hun "Ssangmun-dong" in a derisive manner.

Related dialogue:

S01E01

Gi-hun: The name's Seong Gi-hun. I live in Ssangmun-dong.
Deok-su: Hey, Ssangmun-dong shit.

S01E02

Gi-hun: (to Sang-Woo) Hey, come on, you're still Ssangmun-dong's own pride and joy. You're still the genius who got accepted to SNU Business School. So don't worry. You'll make money again.

S01E04

Gi-hun: It will take a whole lot more killing Gi-hun. Hah! I got Ssangmun-dong running through this heart, huh?

Deok-su: Hey, Ssangmun-dong, what are you doing? We're just helping cull the herd. [laughs]

Ali: I know your name already, though. Ssangmun-dong.
Gi-hun: [chuckles] Ssangmun-dong is just my hometown.

S01E05

Deok-su: Hey, Ssangmun-dong. Hey, I appreciate the work you're doing. Nice. But do you think these will do anything? [scoffs] We can get through all of this easily. [chuckles]

S01E08

Gi-hun: Ssangmun-dong's golden child, the genius Cho Sang-woo, who went to SNU was here? Rolling around this shithole, slamming with us, simpletons, huh!

What is the significance of Gi-hun and Sang-woo being from Ssangmun-dong? Are there any stereotypes associated with a person who is from Ssangmun-dong?

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  • 3
    I wondered exactly the same, and it's not that easy to google. The wikipedia page on the neighborhood merely states that it was popularized by Squid Game. I suspect it will need a native of Seoul to answer. It may of course mean nothing in particular.
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 17:40
  • 5
    From context [& I've only seen the first couple of episodes so far] the conversations all imply it's a 'low rent' district, 'wrong side of the tracks', little more. Anyone 'escaping' that poor start in life to go on to university is doing better than expected in the rat-race [whether their escape - business meetings in the US - is real or they messed it up is more plot than circumstance imo]. In the UK it wouldn't be unheard of to call someone by their 'birthplace' in perhaps slightly derogatory or even just male-bonding kind of way, "Hey, London!" "How ya doin, Geordie?"...
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 18:29

2 Answers 2

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They both being from the same neighbourhood helps build Sang-woo's backstory and adds a certain mystery (initially) to his character.

We're shown Gi-hun first, he lives in this poor neighbourhood where they both grew up. Both Gi-hun and Sang-woo's mother are shown to be proud of his life achievements: they believe he's the one who got out of poverty, went to university, and became a successful businessman, à la Rags to Riches.

According to this blog post, "Ssangmun-dong, the Hood That Defined Squid Game and Reply 1988", Squid Game was set in Ssangmun-dong because the series creator, Hwang Dong-hyuk grew up there:

Hwang wanted to reflect the competitive society we live in today, reflecting how “losers” struggle through the challenges of life and yet get left behind. The names of most of the male characters were in fact named after real people he knew.

In fact, Hwang’s life is reflected in the characters: he was raised by a poor single mother in Ssangmun-dong like Gi-hun, and he was also a graduate of the prestigious Seoul National University like Sang-woo, so he had to live up to high expectations all his life. Before Squid Game, he was living the life of Gi-hun: unable to make any money, he was supported financially by his mother.

Ssangmun-dong also appears in another South Korean series, Reply 1988.

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It adds to the duality of the two characters.

They have been brought up in similar circumstances and one of them appears to be the loser in life, while the other seems to be the winner.

One of them needs the money, while the other one seems to already have more than enough success in life.

It makes the moral choices of Gi-Hun seem more "acceptable", because of his desperation, while Sang-woo does not get the same benefit from the audience. Eventually it turns out that both are desperate and still chose different ways to find their way through the game. Just as they did in real life.

Eventually, they are forced to face each other. The only person in the game they truly understand.

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