Money Heist, the hit Spanish crime drama on Netflix, returns in a gripping Korean spinoff —Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area—that sees a grand heist staged at a mint on the Korean peninsula.
The series, set against the fictional backdrop of a soon-to-be-reunified Korean peninsula, will be available to stream from Friday, June 24 on Netflix, with English subtitles.
The most attractive part of the Korean remake? Without question, the individuality of the characters, said Yoo Ji-tae, the famed Korean actor who plays the Professor in the Korean spinoff.
Speaking to Newsweek from Seoul, the South Korean capital, ahead of the series premiere, Yoo explained: “The most attractive element of both the Korean remake and original work is without question the individuality of the powerful and passionate characters with a Korean touch.”
The characters of the remake are “similar yet different from the original series,” said Yoo, who is also known from the cult Korean noir action film Oldboy, “from the use of unique Korean words, like ‘saturi’ [Korean dialect] to the differences between the North and South Koreans in the show.”
Kim Yun-jin, the Korean actress who plays Woo-jin, the fierce negotiator as a hostage crisis develops in the latest K-drama, recalls the pressure felt by the actors playing the police task force to up their game after watching the heist team actors during their scenes.
Speaking to Newsweek from Seoul, where she is currently shooting XO, Kitty, the upcoming Netflix series that’s a spinoff of the Jenny Han film To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Kim said: “Watching the heist team, I remember us actors on the police task force team were like ‘Guys, we need to wake up and pull our socks up!—the heist team is too strong!'”
She boasted: “There’s this incredible synergy, especially among the heist team,” such as Berlin, “the villain of all villains who we still can’t hate.”
Yoo Ji-tae on the Professor
“As an actor, I’ve always been told I have a nice voice,” Yoo said, which was one of the reasons why he was offered the Professor part, “one that offers a sense of trust, which the Professor character also embodies.”
Yoo said initially he thought perhaps the character should have a different vibe than the one in the original series, giving him a “more modern image” that lends the feeling of being a bit more “colored in capitalism.”
The actor “played with the idea of putting the Professor in a more formal suit, potentially up his sex appeal to get more audience members hooked,” he joked.
However, in many of his previous works, Yoo said: “I’ve played far too many con artist roles, so if I turn up in a suit in the Korean Money Heist remake, the director and I thought perhaps the Professor would give off too much of an obvious con artist vibe and make him feel and look less trustworthy.”
So we decided to stay true to the Professor’s image in the original work, where he gives off a very “pure, innocent professor” feel, Yoo said.
But regardless of his voice, perhaps the Professor role was always in his stars, he said, as Yoo and the character apparently both share the same MBTI (Myers–Briggs Type Indicator) personality profile, the actor was told.
“I was recently told I have the same MBTI as the Professor,” which is INTJ, he recalled.
Those who have an INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging) personality “think strategically and see the big picture,” according to the Myers-Briggs Company website.
In addition to being supportive of his team, the Professor in the original work displays various sides of himself, from being a mentor and counselor to showing a warm, tender loving side in his interactions with Woo-jin, whom he seduces as part of the heist plan.
“The negotiator turned to the Professor a lot in her moments of loneliness and I think that feeling came across very well in the cafe scenes,” Yoo said.
But given the compact, tight nature of the script, “we’ve only been able to show an extract of these various elements of the Professor,” Yoo said.
The actor believes the Korean remake will certainly trigger people’s “imagination and vulnerability,” and make you relate to the thoughts and emotions being played out.
He said there were several parts “that didn’t need to be explained” because the audience’s imagination and almost “sense of delusion” would take care of the rest.
Kim Yun-jin on the Negotiator
Kim said the life of Woo-jin, who is the Korean equivalent of Raquel in the Spanish series, is “so hectic” both outside and within her work as the leader of the police task force.
Both Raquel and Woo-jin are single mothers involved in a custody battle with their former partners and both have mothers with dementia. They are both “women in a man’s world but they don’t lose their focus and center as women,” wielding their authority in a fair and just way.
Their biggest similarity is their determination to always prioritize the safety of the hostages, throwing away the idea that a casualty or two is inevitable in a national crisis situation.
The only difference in their storyline is that in the Korean version, Woo-jin has already been dating the Professor for some time at the start of the series, whereas Raquel and the Professor’s relationship is traced from the beginning in the original work.
Kim said: “The most interesting part about playing the role is that Woo-jin’s daily life is so hectic. Her ex-husband is a powerful politician and she’s fighting a divorce lawsuit. And whenever something happens, she is used as a scapegoat in many ways, from the task force to her ex.
“It was a taxing but thrilling character to play that required a lot of focus, with so much conflict in her life,” she said.
Kim said Woo-jin as well as all the women in the series are such strong characters. “I think women are genetically wired to love peace and to respect and value people’s lives and in such crises, having women in charge might provide a more peaceful resolution…perhaps that’s what the series conveys.”
Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area will be available to stream from Friday, June 24 on Netflix.
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