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O Yeong-su, of 'Squid Game,' wins South Korea's first Golden Globe Award

“I feel like I’m floating on air," said the 77-year-old star of Netflix's most popular non-English language show ever.
 "Squid Game" star O Yeong-su, 77.
 "Squid Game" star O Yeong-su, 77.Noh Juhan / Netflix

South Korean actor O Yeong-su claimed the country’s first Golden Globe Award on Sunday for his role in the hit Netflix drama “Squid Game,” drawing cheers at home and abroad despite criticism for ceremony organizers over a lack of diversity.

O, 77, won for his portrayal of Oh II-nam, besting, among others, Billy Crudup of “The Morning Show” and Kieran Culkin of "Succession."

“I feel like I’m floating on air. It makes me think, ‘I need to calm down, organize my thoughts, and hold myself back right now,’” O said on Korean TV after his award was announced. “It’s hard for me to handle the volume of calls and messages I’ve been receiving.”

O’s win came after Youn Yuh-jung became the first South Korean to win an Oscar last year, taking best supporting actress for her role in the immigrant tale “Minari.”

"Squid Game," a surprise hit for Netflix after it was released in last September, was the streaming service’s biggest non-English-language show ever. 

Oh II-nam, also known as The Host or Player 001, is an old and seemingly vulnerable man with a brain tumor who is later revealed as the real mastermind of the game.

The thriller tells the story of hundreds of struggling people who feel forced to participate in childhood games with deadly consequences in an effort to win a 45.6 billion Korean dollar prize (around $38 million). While at times dystopian and surreal, it was hailed for its portrayal of income inequality and the crushing burden of debt in South Korean society. 

Born in 1944 in Kaepung, which is now a North Korean border town, O is considered one of South Korea’s greatest stage actors. He has appeared in more than 200 stage productions since 1963 and won a number of major awards.

He has also played many charismatic supporting characters in film and television, including in “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring” released in 2003 by the award-winning director Kim Ki-duk.

O's victory came at a dramatically scaled down Golden Globe Awards, which in the past regularly drew 18 million TV viewers.

The press association has faced intense public scrutiny since early last year, when The Los Angeles Times published an investigative report on organizers, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, or HFPA, detailing ethical lapses inside the group and revealing that of its fewer than 90 voting members, not one at the time was Black.

O Yeong-su, right, won the Golden Globe for his portrayal of Oh II-nam.
O Yeong-su, right, won the Golden Globe for his portrayal of Oh II-nam.Noh Juhan / Netflix

This year, the ceremony's 79th edition, it was whittled down to a live-blog, instead of a telecast, nominees, a red carpet, a host, journalists or even a livestream. 

Instead, members of the HFPA and some recipients of the group’s philanthropic grants gathered at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for a 90-minute private event, announcing the names of the film and television winners on the organization’s social media feeds.

Though announcing winners on social media might seem like a straightforward task, those following along on Twitter might have been somewhat confused at times. The tweets often left out exactly which project a person had won for.

Other television winners included: Sarah Snook and Jeremy Strong for "Succession,” which won best drama; Jean Smart for “Hacks,” which also won best comedy; Jason Sudeikis for “Ted Lasso”; Kate Winslet for “Mare of Easttown”; and Michael Keaton for “Dopesick.”

Barry Jenkins’ “The Underground Railroad” won best limited series. The group said on its website that “Pose” star Michaela Jaé Rodriguez became the first trans person to win a Golden Globe.