The Straits Times Asian of the Year 2021 is Squid Game creator Hwang Dong-hyuk
Singapore, 6 December 2021 - Every year, the editors of The Straits Times pick a person, a group or an institution that in their judgment, has significantly impacted Asia in the year past.
This year, the editors are pleased to recognise and honour the creator of K-drama series 'Squid Game', Mr Hwang Dong-hyuk, for an expression of creativity that while fictional and not without flaws, holds up a useful mirror to society. The series created by Mr Hwang, a 50-year-old South Korean filmmaker, has emerged as more than a mere television show, said the citation to The Straits Times Asian of the Year award.
“As social commentary, it has sparked soul-searching about capitalism, inequality and how societies treat the less fortunate. As a commercial enterprise, it makes a compelling case to Hollywood for the viability of non-English content...Above all, as a vehicle of soft power, it has taken South Korea’s global cultural influence, already high, to the next level,” the citation added.
Hwang was born in Seoul in 1971. He was educated at Seoul National University and at the University of Southern California. His graduation thesis film, Miracle Mile, won several awards and signaled his early promise as an artistic genius. With Squid Game, he has established himself as a commercial success.
Mr Warren Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief of SPH Media’s English, Malay, Tamil Media Group, and Editor of The Straits Times, said: “This year's choice for The Straits Times Asian of the Year award might seem an unusual, even surprising, one to some. But in an unreal time when many were confined to home amid the pandemic and sought release through streaming content, a troubling and thought provoking series got the world talking about deep issues of inequality and inhumanity in some societies. The global reach the show attained so quickly spoke not only of the influence of the new media platforms, but also of the impact that ideas, creativity and cultural soft power can have, across borders, even in a world shut up at home. Like it or loathe it, Hwang's creation struck a global chord and resonated with many, because it made us reflect on what happens when societies lose their humanity."
Ms Bhagyashree Garekar, foreign editor of The Straits Times, said of this year’s awardee: “In Hwang, we honour a brilliant Asian artist’s honest reaction to the times we live in. Squid Game reveals to stunning effect the desperation and alienation that fester in the fraying edges of society, and even our own psyches. The award validates the unprecedented resonance Hwang’s creation has had with millions across the world, the next step would be to address the frailties the show has exposed.”
The Straits Times Asian of the Year award, now in its 10th year, has become an important part of the Asian calendar since 2012.
The inaugural award went to then-Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein, followed by a joint award for Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2013, and to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014.
In 2015, the award was given posthumously to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding Prime Minister. In 2016, seven Asian pioneers working at the intersection of technology and commerce were honoured as The Disruptors – the first time the award went to a group.
Mr Xi was Asian of the Year in 2017 while editors picked The First Responders, a bunch of people of courage and commitment who stepped up in the moment of greatest need during natural disasters, as Asians of the Year 2018. In the following year, the award went to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the steward of South-east Asia's biggest nation and economy, for the dexterity and nous he showed in navigating the tricky cross-currents of domestic politics and international affairs.
Last year, the award captured the trajectory of response to the Covid-19 pandemic, recognising a group of six researchers, scientists and businessmen at the forefront of developing and producing vaccines against the virus.
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Launched on July 15, 1845, The Straits Times has been moving with the times in its efforts to engage and grow its audience and exploring innovative ways of storytelling, as well as continuously refreshing its products to maintain quality and stay relevant to the changing needs of its readers. Its integrated newsroom operates round-the-clock, providing content as it happens on all platforms, from its website at www.straitstimes.com, Apple and Android apps to social media.
The Straits Times is a member of two media networks - the Asia News Network and the Impact Journalism Day alliance of newspapers - and it has won multiple international media awards, including from the Society of Publishers in Asia, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers' Association (Panpa), Society of News Design and WAN-IFRA. Its multimedia newsroom and innovative projects were recognised at the Asian Digital Media Awards 2020 presented by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), when it clinched a Gold for Best in Lifestyle, Sports, Entertainment Website or Mobile Services. The Straits Times also won the INMA Global Media Awards in 2020 for its campaign that tailored news on COVID-19 for students.