Squid Game tracksuit demand cheers Korea’s garment sector

SEOUL – The “Made in Korea” green tracksuits and pink jumpsuits worn by characters in Netflix’s global hit Squid Game have proven a pre-Halloween bright spot for a South Korean garment industry struggling during the pandemic.

A 500 sq m garment factory in the Seongbuk district of the capital Seoul was humming this week, green and pink thread flying off stacked spools off serger machines with loud knocking noises in a race to meet orders.

“October is usually a slow month for the sewing industry, but thanks to Squid Game and Halloween, we are scrambling to stitch,” said factory owner Kim jin-ja, 54. 

“We are now sewing 6,000 teal-green tracksuits for toddlers and children.” 

Kim says her annual sales of 1.5 billion won (S$1.7 million) plummeted to a third of what she used to make after the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Most of her orders came from Japan but travel restrictions forced her to shut down in August and September.

She now hopes orders will last past Halloween and sees better chances of renewed exports with “Made in Korea” labels.

“The two years of Covid have been a tough time for domestic fashion corporations,” said Seongbuk Mayor Lee Seung-ro. 

“(But) Squid Game, which has become a global sensation, has also made tracksuits popular domestically, leading to a flood of orders.” 

Workers stitch tracksuits inspired by Netflix series "Squid Game" at a clothing factory in Seoul, South Korea, October 21, 2021. REUTERS

A child’s Squid Game tracksuit was selling for 30,000 won (S$34.40) in Namdaemun Market, the country’s largest traditional market where stock ranges from kitchenware to jewellery.

A garment vendor in the market said he and others did not have enough tracksuits to meet soaring demand.

Squid Game has been watched by 142 million households since its Sept 17 debut, according to Netflix, the world’s largest streaming service, helping it add 4.38 million new subscribers. - REUTERS