Gear up for the biggest heist of the year, the much awaited Money Heist Korea: Joint Economic Area, the adaptation of the hit Spanish franchise comes with a twist but with the promise of all the thrill and chills.
Set against the backdrop of the reunification of North and South Korea, The Professor (Yoo Ji-tae) assembles a top class group of thieves to pull off a heist of four trillion won from the Korea Unified Mint when plans for a united Korea fail. But, chaos ensues when a special task force is assembled by North and South Korea to stop them.
Directed by Kim Hong-sun (LUCA: The Beginning, Black) and written by Ryu Yong-jae (My Holo Love), the creators emphasised that the adaptation is essentially a Korean Story. Though the character names are borrowed and the title is similar, it comes with a strong Korean cultural essence. “The original story is stellar, and I thought about how I could make it more appealing to the Korean audience,” said writer Ryu.
The Korean Hahoe mask replaces the famous Salvador Dali mask of the original show. If the Dali mask stood for ‘freedom’, the Korean Hahoe mask of the 12th century stood as a satirical symbol critiquing the powerful. Bokkeumbap (Korean Fried Rice) replaces the Spanish Paella.
Though many K-damas such as Doctor Strange, Crash Landing On You, and the recent Snowdrop, have explored the North and South Korea divide and ties, director Kim said he wanted to address the subject on the impact of military and political ramifications on people.
“I thought the story of the two Koreas can be told to the global audience once again because that was part of the curiosity of the global fans. So, the fictitious city of the Joint Economic Area was created for the show and what would happen if we are on the cusp of reunification in the future. I wanted to infuse that sense of hope into the show as well,” he added.
Actor and filmmaker Yoo Ji-tae, best known for his work in films Old Boy, One Spring Day, and hit dramas like Healer and When My Love Blooms, seems to be the perfect fit as the mastermind, ‘The Professor’. The actor admits that though he has been used to playing villainous roles, playing a character like this is a “first” for him. “This man has a lot of grey, he is the strategist but does not want people to get hurt either, a man who is focused on using his brain rather than physical strength,” says Yoo. He further added that the set got lonely for him since he wasn’t physically present in the scenes with his team and the mindset of the Professor was that of a lone wolf.
Actor Park Hae-soo, last seen as the broke investment banker Cho Sang-woo aka player no. 218 in the mega hit Squid Game, comes on board as Berlin, the on-ground leader of the team. A versatile and talented actor last seen in the spy thriller Yaksha: Ruthless Operations, acknowledges how Squid Game has helped shed global spotlight on the talent of South Korean content creators, storytellers, directors and actors, “I am overwhelmed to be part of this journey and I hope to continue so more actors and directors get an opportunity to be part of the world stage.
The actor further added that getting the North Korean accent right was a challenge for him.
When it was it was pointed out how Park Hae-soo was making a habit of sporting jumpsuits for his reel characters, after the green jumpsuit in Squid Game, which he seems to have traded for a red jumpsuit in Money Heist, the Prison Playbook actor laughed, “I can’t help it when they give me characters who are confined to one space.”
Jeon Jong-seo, who won the Baeksang Award for best actor for the thriller The Call (2020), plays Tokyo and says her interest in the series began after watching the Spanish Version of Money Heist. Talking about her character Tokyo, who is seen as a trouble maker and an impulsive character, Jeon says, “It’s after I read the script I felt she was the exact opposite; she is calmer, committed to her goal and has a strong sense of conviction. In the Korean version, Tokyo is a Gen Z and a lot of aspects of the generation and its mindset are reflected through her—she is pure and she is single minded when it comes to following the Professor’s goal, she is not a troublemaker at all.”
The first season of Money Heist: Korea, which streams on Netflix from June 24, also stars Lee Won-jong (Moscow), Kim Ji-hun (Denver), Jang Yoon-ju (Nairobi), Lee Hyun-woo (Rio), Kim Ji-hoon (Helsinki), Lee Kyu-ho (Oslo), Kim Sung-oh (Captain Cha Moo-hyuk), Park Myung-hoon (Cho Young-min) and Lee Joo-bin (Yoon Mi-seon).