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Copycats? Squid’s Victory, Idol Producer, and Other Chinese “Versions” of Korean Shows

By now you’ve probably heard of China’s version of Squid Game called “Squid’s Victory” which copied everything from the hit show’s iconic logos down to the concept of children’s games being used in a competition for adults. 

This caused controversy due to the obvious plagiarism, as well as China’s bans on Korean content – only to turn around and copy it themselves.

However, this is far from the first time. Here are seven other Chinese shows based on Korean entertainment! 


1. “Squid’s Victory” based on “Squid Game”  

Just this month, Chinese streaming site YOUKO released teaser posters for their “new” reality show: Squid’s Victory right after the phenomenal success of Netflix’s K-drama Squid Game

Korean and Chinese netizens were mostly united in the fact that the show’s title and logo were both copies of the original Netflix show. The show’s concept is the same as well, with large-scale children’s games being the focus of the competition. 

With Korean netizens expressing their anger and Chinese netizens expressing their embarrassment, both parties demanded an overhaul of the show.

“On the one hand, we complain about Koreans stealing our culture. On the other hand, we copy their work when they produce something popular.” One Chinese Weibo user commented. 

When the company responded to the criticism by saying it was a technical mistake, and that a previously killed design was accidentally posted, the flames were not quelled.

Thankfully, YOUKO took responsibility and changed the name of the show to Game Victory. They also released a statement declaring it China’s first “game and social networking show” which will feature “children’s games and plot development.” 


2. “Keep Running” based on “Running Man”

Not all Chinese versions of Korean shows were plagiarized. Keep Running is an SBS-licensed spinoff of Running Man broadcast on ZRTG: Zhejiang Television. 

The show, starring Angelababy, Deng Cha, Li Chen, and other famous Chinese celebrities did not create controversy due to the smooth collaboration between Korean and Chinese companies. 

In fact, kpop idol Yuqi of (G)-Idle participated in Season 8 of the show! The Chinese kpop star drew attention from both Chinese and Korean netizens (as well as many of (G)-Idle’s international fans), drawing both parties closer together. 

To this day, the show continues to run, proving that harmonious relations between countries are essential not just in diplomacy but even in show business. 


3. “Idol Producer” based on “Produce 101”

NINEPERCENT, the boy group formed by “Idol Producer”

In 2018, Korean entertainment company CJ E&M released a statement of copyright infringement against the show Idol Producer by Chinese streaming platform iQiYi. The statement called the show a blatant copycat of the hit Korean TV show Produce 101. Unlike the Japanese spinoffs of this show, iQiYi did not purchase the rights to make a spinoff.

FRAPA, an organization that represents TV producers supported the company’s claims, informing iQiYi that they infringed on the copyright of Produce 101. In fact, the show received an 88% plagiarism score – the highest score ever recorded for an alleged infringement.

Even the gray school uniforms of the male trainees were almost identical.

Netizens went on to make compilations of the shows side by side, which revealed that the show copied everything from set design, show format, trainee system, voting, logos, and even the camera angles! 

The organization’s co-chairman said “For me as a 30-year formats veteran, this is almost physically painful to watch. Because it is as you say, not just something that is accidentally similar, it is almost identical. It is almost hilarious, I would say.”

Later that year, China did produce a legal spinoff of Produce 101 called Produce 101 China which helped to quell the controversy. It was licensed by CJ E&M and jointly produced by 7-D Vision and Tencent Penguin Pictures. The show ended up attracting over 4.3 billion views on Tencent Video!

4. “Sisters Over Flowers” based on “Noonas Over Flowers” based on “Grandpas Over Flowers”

Sisters Over Flowers or JieJie over Flowers is a Chinese travel-reality show broadcast on SMG: Dragon Television which follows a group of celebrities on a backpacking trip through Turkey and Italy. 

It is based on Sisters Over Flowers which is a South Korean travel-reality show which follows a group of celebrities on a backpacking trip through Istanbul, Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik. The Korean show is a spinoff of Grandpas Over Flowers which starred veteran actors in their seventies. 

In its run from 2013-2014, the Korean show became a hit and reached a peak rating of 10.5 percent! It also had a notable impact on tourism in Croatia and propelled the main actresses to stardom, with clothing featured on the show becoming sold out.

No wonder China decided to make its own version!


5. “Takes a Real Man” based on “Real Men”

In 2013, MBC Korea released a show called Real Man, a variety show featuring male celebrities as they experience life in the military. The rationale being that since military service is compulsory for all Korean men, celebrities should not be an exception, and their struggles would make for an interesting premise on live television.

The show became a hit, and two years later in 2015, China’s Hunan Television produced its own version. 

Due to the large amount of respect for the military and portrayals of the military in both countries, no netizens dared to make any controversy about the shows.

To this day, the Korean version of the show is still running and many male and female idols have featured in it! Most notable is Blackpink’s Lisa.


6. “Masked Singer” based on “King of Masked Singer”

King of Masked Singer is a popular Korean TV show that features masked contestants in a judgment-free singing competition. It began in 2015 and was produced by MBC as part of its Sunday Night programming.

Notable celebrity appearances include Ryan Reynolds and TWICE’s Jihyo, and the show is known to go viral with every exciting guest appearance and reveal of a masked singer!

After the success of the original show, China’s Jiangsu Television created its own version called Masked Singer. While Jiangsu Television did agree to purchase the rights for the show, the company caused controversy when it did not actually pay for them.

The case went to China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission, where the Korean entertainment company MBC won. 


7. The Rap of China

Show Me the Money is a South Korean rap competition, where rappers of various levels of experience and fame compete against each other. 

The show was a smash hit on its debut in 2012 and is currently on its tenth season in 2021. Show Me The Money increased South Korean interest in hip hop. 

2017’s season had famous rappers Zico and Jay Park as judges which increased the show’s fame. American artist Swizz Beatz came on as a guest judge for auditions taking place in New York. 

That year, China’s iQiYi decided to make its own version and was criticised in the media for being a copycat. Additionally, iQiYi did not purchase the rights to produce the show or make a spinoff. 

It was also criticised for being heavily censored and sanitized, as well as forcing competitors to adhere to strict values, limiting their writing. Many rappers released diss tracks about the show because they were not given an opportunity to shine. 

“There is hip-hop in China, but not in iQiYi.” some netizens commented. 

Passing off the ideas of someone else as one’s own is truly plagiarism, and should not be treated lightly – even in entertainment.

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