I don't trust people. Especially the ones who ended up here.Kang Sae-byeok.
I need you to swear that you'll look after my little brother.Sae-byeok to Seong Gi-hun.
I want to go home.Sae-byeok's dying words to Gi-hun.
Kang Sae-byeok (Korean: 강새벽) is the tritagonist of the first season of the South Korean Netflix drama show Squid Game. She is a North Korean defector that joined the Squid Game to gain money to get her brother out of the orphanage and her mother out of North Korea.
She was portrayed by model
in her acting debut.
During the fight last night, do you know how the man in front of me died? Someone he thought was on his side broke his neck. Do you all trust me? I don't trust any of you.Kang Sae-byeok to the other members of her team.
Sae-byeok is very quiet and calm, never panicking even in stressful situations. She is also very reserved and prefers to work by herself. She is reluctant to interact with others and reveal things about herself, hesitating even to say her name to anyone without having a reason to do so. She also rarely lets it show any kind of emotion she is feeling, and is stoic most of the time. Sae-byeok states that she doesn't trust anyone, especially the people in the games, knowing that she can be betrayed by other players at any time.
She is protective over her family and determined to win the game to be able to reunite with her mother and younger brother in a new house. Sae-byeok risked herself to gather money to pay for a broker to take her mother out of North Korea and is even willing to die in the Squid Game to be able to reunite her family. She votes against the termination of the games and is disappointed when the players vote to stop them. She shows no signs of be willing to give up later, even after she is mortally wounded by glass in the fifth game. Instead, she entrusts her goal to Seong Gi-hun, knowing that she doesn't have much time left before dying.
Because she is reserved, she is seen alone most of the time before the special game. She performs very well even without others' help, showing to be very intelligent and resourceful. She manages to figure out how to survive in the first game by hiding behind others and is successful in staying awake upon being taken to the island again, managing to smuggle her switchblade to use in the games. She also plans how to get information about the third game by entering in the air ducts. Later, after Cho Sang-woo tells her that he can guess the game, she deduces correctly that he figured out what the game is by observing him from afar and then follows his choice, resulting in her picking the easiest shape to cut out from her honeycomb.
Despite being often quiet, Sae-byeok is also blunt and not afraid to speak her mind when she decides to do so. She will speak honestly about her opinions of others and the situation, and rarely lies. She openly tells her team that she doesn't trust them or anyone in the game. She lets them know that she is aware that contestants will not choose to play with her during the Marbles game, because she is a woman. At the same time, she also admits she does not care about embarrassing herself to manage to get a partner. When Ji-yeong suggests them to share their stories before the eventual death of one of them, she is also honest and open about her past and objective in the game.
Her solitary and distrustful nature makes her not accept help or give others' help easily. During the period she is alone before the special game, she accepts Han Mi-nyeo's help to get inside the air ducts, but is reluctant to tell her what she saw, even after stating she would do so to repay her help. Sae-byeok eventually does it because of Mi-nyeo's insistence. She later refuses to tell Sang-woo anything about the guards melting sugar, until she realizes that telling him can also work in her favor. When Gi-hun invites her to join his team as a way to protect herself from Jang Deok-su's group, Sae-byeok replies that she does not trust anyone. Despite this, she does seek his team upon being pursued by Deok-su during the special game. As Ji-yeong decides to sacrifice herself for her in the Marbles game, Sae-byeok becomes visibly angry and tells the other girl to play again, before accepting her wish. Upon being mortally wounded by glass, Sae-byeok endures the pain alone and tries to stop the bleeding by herself, without telling anyone about her situation. When Gi-hun notices there is something wrong with her, she tells him to worry about himself.
Ultimately, Sae-byeok does form bonds during the competition. She befriends Ji-yeong, who also has a tragic past and a similar personality to her. Despite usually not showing emotions, when Ji-yeong reveals her intentions to sacrifice herself, Sae-byeok clearly shows anger and then sadness for the first time. She cries for her friend and is seen mourning her death after the Marbles game is over. Sae-byeok also recognizes that Gi-hun is a good person, making her willing to trust and help him. Sae-byeok eventually joins his team after his invitation, and later gives him a bottle of water for him to take care of Oh Il-nam. She also tells Gi-hun which glass he should step on when he is confused during the fifth game. As Gi-hun attempts to kill Sang-woo in his sleep, Sae-byeok stops him because she knows he is a kind-hearted person. In her final moments, she entrusts her little brother's care to him, knowing that Cheol will be in good care with her friend.