Partly because of “Squid Game”, dalgona is sparking a lot of interest across the web. A quick Google search will bring up dozens of recipes with introductions citing the program’s popularity and leading readers through the best strategies for carefully sculpting the shapes. But her appearance on the show is also leading to crucial discussions surrounding the series’ translations.
“Squid Game” is inspiring a lot of talk about subtitles and how they change the meaning of the series: dalgona is a key example. The game played in the episode is actually called “seoltang bbopki” or “sugar harvest”, which the program’s localized captions translate as “sugar honeycombs”. While this is not an imprecise translation and certainly achieves the goal of clarifying for non-Korean speaking audiences, the decision speaks volumes about subtitle priorities. Not calling the game by its Korean name erases its cultural specificity, compromising the opportunity to immerse yourself in Korean culture in order to make the English-speaking audience more “comfortable”. It also means losing the power of bbopki’s nostalgia, a key part of what makes the series and its games so effective. Many are criticizing this decision and many others that prove how such changes can alter the writers’ original intent and thus change the show itself.
This is a learnable mistake that even helped the show’s overwhelming popularity. Streaming services like Netflix have been vital when it comes to getting programs and movies in other languages to a broader global market. But if the final product is altered by its translations, the benefits of that accessibility will suffer. With the explosion of “Squid Game” and an increase in this debate, hopefully the problem can be resolved.