The show is an almost exact copy of the original, save for the new backdrop against which the robbery takes place, and it is this predictability leads to its downfall.
Money Heist, as we know it, didn’t take long to go viral after Netflix released Lex Pina’s La Casa De Papel a few years ago. The news of a Korean version afterward came as no surprise. It is regard as one of the most popular shows on the streaming service globally. Squid Game and All of us are Dead are just a few South Korean productions that performed remarkably well on the platform over the past year.
With six episodes, Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area features a distinct geopolitical setting. South Korea and North Korea are no longer at war in 2025 and are about to reunite. The Professor (Yoo Ji-Tae) plans a daring theft against the Unified Korean Mint at the Joint Economic Area between these two territories. This heist is unlike anything else the world has ever seen.
Tokyo (Jeon Jong-So), a soldier and BTS fan who relocates from North Korea to the South, quickly turns to the crime before being scout by the Professor to join his team of criminals. Berlin (Park Hae-Soo) is the only person who survived 25-year incarceration in a North Korean labor camp. Streetfighters Denver (Kim Ji-Hoon) and Moscow (Lee Won-Jong), a father-son team, con artist Nairobi (Jang Yoon-Ju), hacker Rio (Lee Hyun-Woo). Who the group claims have a lot in common with a K-Pop idol, and strongmen Oslo (Kim Ji-Hun) and Helsinki (Lee Kyu-Ho) make up the remainder of the group.
Like in the original, the team does its best to keep each other’s identities a secret by using the names of cities. Tokyo, however, is thus somewhat angrily questioned by her Korean team members as to why she chose Tokyo, the Japanese metropolis. She responds with, “Because we’re about to do something horrible”. In a very loaded reference to the relations between the two countries, without even batting an eye.
The Professor’s friendship with South Korean crisis mediator Inspector Seon Woo-Jin is also revealed as the theft continues (Kim Yun-Jin). Here, there is a gradual build-up for the developing emotions that would reveal the Professor’s moral compass, if there is one.
While the plot resembles the original, the adaptation’s distinctive location is its greatest strength. The tension between the Mint employees and the North and South Korean task force leaders is apparent. Additionally, several characters have complex backstories based on the social and economic repercussions of the geopolitical shifts. The crew makes use of the simmering tension to control the hostages. The South Korean captives are warned that if a North Korean hostage disobeys, they would be punished, and vice versa. Berlin claims that this may prevent if the hostages keep an eye on one another.
The last three episodes are where most of the action is concentrate, despite the slow beginning. This version’s ensemble cast is competent but also considerably more subdued. For example, Hae-portrayal Soo’s of Berlin lacks the unhinged element. Jong-portrayal So’s of Tokyo is more laid-back due to the lack of a Rio backdrop. Ji-Hoon as Denver stands out among the employees within the Mint. The actors find their footing in the later episodes as tensions rise. Yoo Ji-Tae makes a staid, overly-composed professor come to life on screen. Kim Yun-Jin has a bigger impact as the stressed-out crisis negotiator who can’t figure out how the gang of thieves manages to stay one step ahead of the task force.
The show is an almost exact copy of the original. Save for the new backdrop against which the robbery takes place. It is this predictability that ultimately proves to be its downfall. The show is a polished adaption. It feels like the creators and the actors chose to play it safe rather than add much-needed flair.
The six episodes conclude on a cliffhanger while laying the groundwork for a second season. Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area’s first season does a good job getting the scenario and the characters right. Let’s hope the creators push the boundaries and take some chances in the second season.
Money Heist: Korea- Joint Economic Area’s first season is on Netflix.