© Reuters. Tracksuits inspired by the Netflix series "Squid Game" can be seen at a clothing factory in Seoul, South Korea on October 21, 2021. Picture taken on October 21, 2021. REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji
By Yeni Seo and Sangmi Cha
SEOUL (Reuters) – The green “Made in Korea” tracksuits and pink overalls worn by characters in Netflix (NASDAQ 🙂 's global hit “Squid Game” https://www.netflix.com/kr-en/title/ 81040344 ”has proven to be a bright spot ahead of Halloween for a South Korean clothing industry struggling during the pandemic.
A 500 square meter textile factory in the Seongbuk district of the capital Seoul was buzzing this week, green and pink threads flew from stacked spools of serger machines with loud knocking noises in a race for orders.
"October is usually a slow month for the sewing industry, but thanks to Squid Game and Halloween, we had a hard time sewing," factory owner Kim jin-ja, 54, told Reuters. "We are now sewing 6,000 teal tracksuits for toddlers and children."
Kim says her annual sales of 1.5 billion won ($ 1.27 million) fell to a third of her previous sales following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of their orders came from Japan, but travel restrictions forced them to close in August and September.
She now hopes that the orders will continue beyond Halloween and sees better chances of renewed exports with "Made in Korea" labels.
The South Korean clothing industry was in decline even before the pandemic, and higher wage levels made it difficult to compete with China, Vietnam or Indonesia.
Of the 2,144 manufacturing companies in Seongbuk, 70% – or 1,510 – are apparel companies, Oh Byung-yeol, chairman of the Seoul Fashion Textile Sewing Association, told Reuters.
"The two years of COVID have been a tough time for domestic fashion companies," said Seongbuk Mayor Lee Seung-ro. "(But) Squid Game, which has become a worldwide sensation, has popularized tracksuits domestically as well, resulting in a spate of orders."
A squid game tracksuit for children sold for 30,000 won (US $ 25.50) in Namdaemun Market, the largest traditional market in the country, selling everything from kitchenware to jewelry.
A clothing seller in the market said he and others didn't have enough tracksuits to meet rising demand.
According to Netflix, the world's largest streaming service, Squid Game has been seen by 142 million households since its debut on September 17 and has 4.38 million new subscribers.
Many small business owners in South Korea recognized themselves in the succinct characters of the hugely popular thriller, who are desperately vying for the $ 38 million chance and uncovering an all-too-known debt trap.
($ 1 = 1,177,5700 won)
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