“Money Heist” (a.k.a. “La Casa de Papel”) was a huge hit on Netflix after its initial run on Spanish TV. To capitalize on the show’s success, Netflix released a documentary called “Money Heist: The Phenomenon.” After the show ended its five-season run last year, Netflix came out with another documentary, “Money Heist: From Tokyo to Berlin,” featuring interviews with the cast and crew about the series’ end.
But that was not truly the end of “Money Heist,” which takes on new life, yet again, with the newly released “Money Heist: Korea — Joint Economic Area.”
“Money Heist: Korea” is more crossover than spinoff: The series stays true to the original plot, in which a mysterious criminal mastermind recruits a band of thieves to help him pull off a daring heist at Spain’s national mint. But the latest iteration manages to feel like a different show, because it’s specific to its setting — and very much a K-drama. Here is everything you need to know about “Money Heist: Korea.”
There are a lot of familiar names and faces
Fans of the original “Money Heist” know that the Professor’s recruits use international city names to hide their identities from one another during their criminal exploits. The characters in “Money Heist: Korea” use the same monikers.
As in the original, the Professor (Yoo Ji-tae) first links up with the series narrator, Tokyo (Jun Jong-seo), as she tries to elude authorities in the aftermath of a crime. Rounding out the team are Berlin (Park Hae-soo), Moscow (Lee Won-jong), Denver (Kim Ji-hun), Rio (Lee Hyun-woo), Nairobi (Jang Yoon-ju), Helsinki (Kim Ji-hoon) and Oslo (Lee Kyu-ho).
The first episode’s setup is largely the same: The thieves take over the Mint while high school students — including the daughter of a particularly high-profile figure — are touring the building. And the hostages are forced to dress as their captors to throw off police.
The characters in “Money Heist” have some physical and personality traits that are similar to their “Casa de Papel” counterparts. Tokyo has a blunt bob that is unique and stylish. Moscow, who is husky and bearded, is often seen trying to calm down his hotheaded and handsome son, Denver. Rio is a sweet and lovable goofball. Nairobi does whatever she wants. And Berlin – who will be instantly recognizable to “Squid Game” fans – is not to be messed with.
Kim Yunjin stars as Seon Woojin, a police negotiator who tries to understand the Professor’s objectives, without realizing she is closer to him than anyone else. In addition to the crime she is trying to solve, Woojin also experiences sexism at work, which she handles better than any of the men around her.
It’s culturally specific
“Money Heist: Korea” is set in a future where North and South Korea are on the verge of reuniting, making it the perfect place to film a series about a massive heist. The Mint is located in the Joint Economic Area,
which gives both Koreas jurisdiction over the crime scene. The Professor taps criminals from both sides of the border — Tokyo is among the North Koreans handpicked for the heist — “Money Heist: Korea” joins other K-dramas, including “Squid Game” and “Crash Landing on You,” in offering a rare window into life in the totalitarian dictatorship.
Tokyo is on the run after a bank robbery in the opening scene of “La Casa de Papel”. Tokyo, a former soldier in the North Korean army, has turned to a life of crime after being taken advantage of and forced to defend herself.
When the Professor asks his task force to choose nicknames, “Tokyo” doesn’t go unnoticed. Rio asks why she chose “Tokyo of all names,” and she replies, “Because we’re going to do a bad thing.” This is an apparent reference to Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
In recent years, there has been a shift in Korean TV and film towards stories that explore economic inequality. This theme has taken on a deeper significance in alignment with the current social climate.
“South Korea has become a global exporter of culture (especially through movies, television and music), a fact to which American consumers are finally catching up,” Washington Post TV critic Inkoo Kang wrote.