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'Squid Game' reality show winner still waiting to be paid P253 million prize 10 months after win

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Dec 09, 2023 10:34 am

The winner of the Squid Game reality show competition has yet to receive her $4.56 million (P253 million) cash prize 10 months after emerging victorious in the games.

Mai Whelan, a 55-year-old immigration adjudicator, beat out 455 other players in a series of physical and mental games based on the South Korean survival thriller show.

In the finale, she achieved victory against 27-year-old-contestant Phill Cain in a game of "rock, paper, scissors." The winner then retrieved one of many keys to a safe that secured her win. 

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But even though filming wrapped in February, Whelan says she still hasn’t received any of her winnings. 

"I feel like Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire," she told The Times. "Show me the money!"

So far, Whelan had spent some of her expected winnings to prepare for Squid Game gala by getting a haircut, a black Ralph Lauren dress, and Jimmy Choo shoes.

"I still have buyer’s remorse from that, but I think it’s well-deserved," she shared.

When asked about her other plans moving forward, she told Entertainment Tonight that she's looking to donate a huge chunk of it to help those who are in need.

"I have charitable causes I wanna contribute more to," she explained. These philanthropic endeavors include "sponsoring kids receiving education and helping the elderly with their basic needs and health care. And also the wildlife and the climate," Whelan said.

"I think those are very important to how we see the world so that way we can live in it and enjoy it for everybody, not just us at the present moment," she added.

In response to her complaint of a 10-month delay, a source close to production told PEOPLE that the winner of the show "was aware of the payment plan and is set to receive the prize fund now that the show’s season one finale has aired."

This is not the first time that an issue had emerged from the reality show competition. According to a report by Variety, several contestants have come forward regarding their "inhumane" and "harsh" experiences during production, particularly with the "Red Light, Green Light" game that was filmed in cold weather.

A British personal injury firm stated that it is representing two unnamed players from the show who claimed that they suffered injuries like hypothermia and nerve damage as a result of poor health and safety standards on set.

Executive producer John Hay defended the show's filming conditions and stressed that they have "taken appropriate measures to look after people."

Squid Game: The Challenge is based on the highly successful South Korean thriller of the same name, where 456 contestants competed against each other in a series of children's games with a deadly twist for a cash prize. A second season is currently in the works.

The reality show premiered on Netflix on Nov. 22 with a total of 10 episodes.