After a record-breaking debut and a series of high-profile Hollywood nominations and award wins, Netflix’s Squid Game made history at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards, held on Monday, September 12. Already breaking barriers with 14 Emmy nominations, five at the Primetime Emmys, the series went home with two significant awards – Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. 

Co-stars Jung Hoyeon and Lee Jung-jae also had the opportunity to present with a playful appearance by the series’ iconic robot doll Young-hee.

Lee Jung-jae Nabs Outstanding Lead Actor

By now, Korean superstar Lee Jung-jae is a Hollywood award circuit veteran, and an Emmy is just his latest accolade. Lee took home the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Song Gi-hun. Lee beat out an A-list roster of leading men: Jason Bateman for Ozark, Succession’s Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong, Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk and Severance show Adam Scott.

While a career first for the actor, Lee also became the first Asian man to win Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and the first-ever actor to win for a non-English-speaking role. After a standing ovation, Lee thanked the cast, crew, and Netflix in his acceptance speech, with a special shout-out to series director Hwang Dong-hyuk’s creative vision.

Earlier this year, Lee won the Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Hwang Dong-hyuk Wins Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series

Squid Game’s director, Hwang Dong-hyuk, won the Award for Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series. “I truly hope Squid Game won’t be the last non-English series to be here at the Emmys,” he said during his acceptance speech. 

The award was for the series’ first episode, “Red Light, Green Light,” a phrase that has become synonymous with Squid Game. Hwang was up against Jason Bateman for Ozark, Mark Mylod, Cathy Yan, and Lorene Scafaria for Succession, Ben Stiller for Severance, and Karyn Kusama for Yellowjackets

Notable Emmy Wins and Nominations

Also nominated for several Creative Arts Emmy Awards, Squid Game took home four awards: Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary Program (One Hour or More), Outstanding Stunt Performance, and Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Single Episode. Lastly, Lee You-mi, who guest starred as Ji-yeong, won the award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.

Alongside their wins, Squid Game also secured a few notable nominations. Breakout star Jung Ho-yeon joined stars like Succession’s Patricia Arquette and Euphoria’s Sydney Sweeney in the Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series category. Ozark’s Julia Garner took home the award. In addition, park Hae-soo and Golden Globe winner Oh Young-soo were nominated for the Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series award. The award went to Succession’s Matthew Macfadyen.

Bringing K-Entertainment to the Awards Circuit

Squid Game is the Television Academy’s first non-English language show to receive an Emmy. Until 2022, non-English content has never won or been nominated in major categories at the Golden Globes or the Primetime Emmys. This year, Squid Game took home two awards. The last time a Korean cast won an ensemble award was in 2020, with Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite winning for best ensemble cast in a motion picture

To many, these awards, and the persisting success of Squid Game and the Hallyu wave is a testament that Western audiences can be just as receptive to high-quality global content as domestic or English-speaking content. Netflix has certainly taken note – Squid Game fans can stay on the lookout for a second season

Congratulations to Lee Jung-jae, Hwang Dong-hyuk and the cast and crew of Squid Game for their wins at the 74th Primetime Emmys!

Looking for more industry news? Check out our coverage of Lee Jung-jae’s recent casting in the upcoming Disney+ show, The Acolyte.