Cult Netflix drama Money Heist is back with a heart-pounding Korean twist. Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area, the Korean remake of the Spanish smash hit, opens with the most iconic of the country’s exports—none other than global phenomenon BTS.
“Don’t look back, because we found our destiny”—the lyrics from the BTS song “DNA” play in the opening scene, with the show’s Tokyo character dancing to it on the steps of North Korea’s Kim Il-sung University. It’s part of the intriguing preamble to a perfect storm that will “go down in history as a revolutionary crime.”
The new Netflix K-drama sees a grand heist unfold inside a Korean mint at a historic time set against the backdrop of a soon-to-be-reunified Korean peninsula of the future.
The Spanish series might have left some huge shoes to fill, but the spin-off marks its own territory with plenty of colorful Korean flair, with the show’s greatest weapon being its unique blend of punchy characters seasoned with local touches.
The show boasts a star-studded cast, including Park Hae-soo (the Screen Actors Guild award-nominee who shot to international fame in Squid Game) plays Berlin in the latest series and Yoo Ji-tae (the actor from the famed Korean noir action drama Oldboy) as the Professor, the mysterious mastermind behind the heist who communicates with the team from outside the mint.
Audiences will also recognize Kim Yun-jin (known from the Lost television series as the negotiator and leader of the police task force) and Jeon Jong-seo (from the haunting Korean psychological thriller Burning—starring The Walking Dead‘s Steven Yeun—in the role of Tokyo).
Money Heist: Korea feels like a love letter to the Spanish hit, with the original work providing the main framework and foundation of the plot. But the devil is in the details, making this remake a standalone piece in its own right.
Much of this is seen in the reinterpretation of the iconic heist members, who feel like a sibling or a cousin to their original counterparts but with a Korean edge, such as their varying accents.
The charming “saturi” (which refers to any Korean dialect) heard from Denver (Kim Ji-hoon) and his father Moscow (Lee Won-jong) adds a warm local flavor to both characters, whose endearing relationship provides a welcome dose of comic relief, seen both between the pair and in their interactions with others.
A heavy North Korean accent adds yet another loaded feel to the commanding force that is Berlin, the team’s leader inside the mint, whose dark shadow-like presence will keep viewers at the edge of their seats as other heist members risk their lives to stick to the Professor’s meticulous plan.
From dramatic standoffs (between the heist team and police, as well as among the thieves and hostages) and explosive shootouts to nail-biting near-misses and upended missions, viewers will certainly be in for an entertaining ride in this dynamic fast-paced series.
But at its core is a very Korean story that ties it all together, with the heist unfolding at a mint set in an area between North and South Korea resembling the Korean peninsula’s real-life Joint Security Area, a part of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that’s also known as the Truce Village, where diplomatic negotiations between North and South Korea take place.
The complicated relationship and underlying tension between the two countries is a running theme mirroring the complex past and present reality of the Korean peninsula.
This motif is littered across the series, played out in some intense exchanges among the North and South Korean leaders of the police task force as well as the hostages, who are essentially pitted against each other, imposed by Berlin’s “divide and conquer” mentality.
Polarizing tensions also run high among the heist team members, who question each other as well as themselves, throwing them into some unforeseen dilemmas and situations behind the scenes of the heist.
But the fierce female characters steal the show, from the strong yet vulnerable negotiator to loyal Tokyo, who fiercely defends the Professor’s plan, and fluid Nairobi, who can be your best friend or your worst nightmare, depending on where you stand.
If you’ve been craving more since the final curtain call of the original Spanish work, this enthralling Korean remake will give you your Money Heist fix and plenty more.
Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area will be available to stream on June 24 on Netflix.
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