K-zombie takeover: Netflix’s ‘All of Us Are Dead’ ranks No. 1 in the world one day after release

All of Us Are Dead via Yang Hae-sung _ Netflix
  • “All of Us Are Dead” has become the third Korean series following “Squid Game” and “Hellbound” to reach the top position on Netflix’s global streaming charts.
  • The show currently holds the top two spots in 75 countries.

Korean zombie thriller series “All of Us Are Dead” became the top most-watched show on Netflix’s global streaming charts just one day after its release on Jan. 28. It is now the third Korean show to reach the top position on the platform after “Squid Game” broke the record in September 2021, followed by “Hellbound” in November. 

“All Of Us Are Dead” has been leading the global chart for three consecutive days, according to data from streaming analytics site FlixPatrol. As of this writing, the show takes the top spot in 46 countries including South Korea. In 29 other countries, including the U.S., it occupies the No. 2 spot. 

The 12-episode series falls into the genre that has affectionately come to be known as “K-zombies” in Korea, as its success follows in the footsteps of several other recent zombie films and shows, including the 2016 Korean zombie movie “Train to Busan,” which also gained international acclaim.

The series, based on a popular webtoon by Joo Dong-geun called “Now at Our School,” follows a group of high school students who must find a way to survive after a mysterious virus breaks out at the school and turns their peers into deadly zombies. 

Some of the darker themes within the show have been compared to real life events in South Korea, including the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic as well as the sinking of the MV Sewol, a tragedy that rattled the nation in 2014, according to SE Daily. The MV Sewol ferry was sailing from Incheon to Jeju Island when it sank, killing over 300 of its 476 passengers, most of whom were students on a school trip. Both the crew — particularly the captain who managed to flee safely — as well as the government’s handling of the aftermath were criticized heavily. 

As “All of Us are Dead” sees students of a similar age forced to fend for themselves, some Korean viewers were reminded of the harrowing aftermath of the ferry disaster that left many parents and communities feeling helpless. One scene that shows a yellow ribbon amid all the chaos bears a stark resemblance to reality; a similar ribbon was used among students in South Korea as a symbol of hope and solidarity following the disaster. 

Jeong Deok-hyeon, a popular culture critic in South Korea, said, “It is a work that unravels the scars of modern Korean history, such as the Sewol ferry disaster, within a zombie genre.” 

​​The show has also been interpreted as a commentary on South Korean culture, as it sheds light on bullying in schools and the way peers often become rivals fighting against each other in the country’s fiercely competitive society. It leaves viewers wondering how far the students are willing to go to come out on top — or in this case, simply to come out alive.

“All of Us Are Dead” director Lee Jae-gyu, whose previous works include “Damo” and “Beethoven Virus,” spoke to EDaily Korea about the show’s success: “I can’t believe all the love it has gotten from so many countries around the world,” he said, noting how grateful he was. 

As for the webtoon’s original creator, Joo Dong-geun, Lee revealed that he was happy with what became of his story.

“After watching the trailer, he said, ‘My dreams have already come true.’ That alone was an honor,” Lee recalled.

Feature Image via Yang Hae-sung/Netflix

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