The global popularity of South Korean pop culture has spread like wildfire over the prolonged period of the pandemic — and now it’s reached the world of cryptocurrencies. The Squid Game token (SQUID), inspired by the Netflix thriller series of the same name, and a crypto coin named after the fan community of BTS, ARMY, recently emerged into the spotlight. Sounds like they are all fun and games, but both projects may potentially be pitfalls for innocent fans and investors.

Netflix’s Squid Game broke records as the most-watched series on the platform, garnering viewership of more than 142 million households in the first four weeks of its release. The show follows the protagonist entering a mysterious tournament where players are put in live-or-die situations under the premise of traditional South Korean children’s games — and the winner gets 46.5 billion Korean won (around US$39 million) as a reward. 

The Squid Game token appeared in the midst of the TV show’s hype on Oct. 20. That was when its presale started, then it was listed on Pancakeswap the next day. The cryptocurrency’s developer says the token is launched on the Binance Smart Chain as the exclusive coin to be used in the upcoming play-to-earn game replica of the tournament appearing in the drama series. To enter the first stage of the online Squid Game — Red Light, Green Light — one must pay 456 SQUIDs. Winners of each stage will get their SQUID coins refunded and be invited to the next game, while the final winner wins 90% of all entry fees of eliminated players that have been accumulated. The actual game is to be released in November.

On account of the popularity of the original television series and the anticipation of the play-to-earn game, the price of SQUID surged nearly one thousand percent in the 24 hours to early Friday Hong Kong time. From its inception, SQUID price soared from 80 cents to over $3.50. However, CoinMarketCap warns users about the Squid Game token that it has received multiple reports that users are not able to sell SQUID on Pancakeswap, reminding traders to take caution. Several Twitter users have already tweeted that their token sales are not being processed on Pancakeswap, disparaging the project as a scam. The Squid Game crypto project has not given an official explanation to the situation.

Meanwhile, Singapore-based crypto exchange Bitget listed the ARMY coin on Wednesday. Its name, ARMY, is the official name of K-pop group BTS’s fandom that is said to have around 50 million members. The ARMY coin’s official website reveals the cryptocurrency is in dedication to the boy band, and that 50% of the ARMY coin will be donated to a BTS wallet for band members. After being listed on Bitget, ARMY coin’s price saw an upsurge from merely 6 cents to a high of $7.80.

BTS’s agency HYBE issued a warning against the token, saying the crypto has no affiliation with the company or BTS. HYBE’s statement added that the token’s mission to fund BTS with its profit is fake, and that the company will take legal action on any infringement on the publicity of BTS. 

Fans of BTS on Twitter openly expressed distrust against the project, with one BTS fan tweeting, “They are using ARMY for clout. Hybe has released an official statement that they are not associated with this. DO NOT ENGAGE. THIS IS A SCAM!”

Despite the significant amount of attention and price surge, the two crypto tokens will have to prove valid utility to both investors and diehard fans to remain relevant even after the original content is out of the limelight.