The production is impressive, the script is punchy, and the characters do well to represent their original counterparts.
We review the Netflix K-Drama series Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area season 1, part 1, which does not contain spoilers.
There’s something romantic about the story of Money Heist. It understands storytelling at a human level, heightening the importance of character development and entwined with entertainment. The story is addictive and outrageous, pitting characters against each other with different intentions and motives. It somehow manages to make every second important; the conversations, the actions, and the outcomes. At the crux of it all, character development is more critical than the heist itself.
And so, when it was announced that Money Heist was getting a South Korean remake planted on Netflix, I was not worried at all. K-Drama appears to trump the Western world’s production value, performances, and stories with ease. There’s been something brewing in this industry for the last few years, and Squid Game became the peak of success. Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area is in no way original, but it’s a success.
The only significant difference is the scenario surrounding the characters. The Korean remake situates itself in the near future, where the war between North and South Korea has brought on a near financial collapse. Determined for peace and coalition, both countries created a JEA (Joint Economic Area), where Korean people from both sides could work and apparently, prosper together. In the middle of the JEA is the Mint, where the money is produced. Of course, this is where the heist takes place.
The heist itself patterns itself on the original story with The Professor (played by Yoo Ji-tae) leading a group of society misfits to pull off the greatest bank robbery the world has ever seen. He wants to do it without casualties, and there’s a lust for winning over public opinion. The series does well to tap into the political dynamics. For example, there’s a disillusionment with North Koreans embedded into a democratic system, watching others prosper while they suffer in a new financial hybrid. That’s a key reason why Tokyo (played by Jun Jong-seo), who in the past was enlisted in the North Korean army, decided on a life of bank robberies. She became resentful of capitalism.
And with that, Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area brings an added flavor that the Spanish version could not provide. The divide between the hostages, the heist team, and the police are naturally based on where the characters are from. It’s not just bank robbers versus the state, but a mangled political system trying to work together to bring them down. The JEA is dealing with an unprecedented scheme against their new reality, with the necessity for a police makeup of North and South Koreans. It’s compelling and intriguing.
However, the only shortfall for this series is that it flagrantly follows the original plot beat-for-beat for many of the stories. There are some slight differences, but audiences familiar with the Spanish version will not feel surprised or stressed with the timeline of events. The same cleverness, the same strategy, and the same enthralling twists come to the surface in part 1. Whether the same will happen in part 2 remains to be seen. But it will be interesting to see if they change course in the story.
And so, it’s not really about whether the story is good because the world has already established that it is. We can only judge Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area by its performance. The production is impressive (no surprise here), the script is punchy, and the characters do well to represent the original counterparts (yes, most of them have the same names). If you are a lucky viewer watching this story for the first time, you will be enthralled by its clever storytelling.
It’s difficult to gauge whether the South Korean remake is better than the original. It’s tempting to say no, purely because of what the Spanish version did seismically. Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area would have to conjure more seasons before that judgment can be made. However, this remake is worth the time and investment, at least for the purely invested performances and production. Money Heist is back, so we shouldn’t grumble.
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