A Korean version of Money Heist has hit Netflix after the huge success of the Spanish series. It serves as a remake, but with a few cultural twists.
With the release of Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area, many are wondering how it connects to the original series, Money Heist. The original was initially canceled after it aired on television in Spain. However, after Netflix picked up the series, it became a global phenomenon and the streaming service’s second most-watched series ever. With the success of Korea’s Squid Game, the number one most-watched series on Netflix, it’s no wonder the streaming service pushed out a Korean version of its hit Spanish crime drama so quickly.
The original series Money Heist centers around a Spanish criminal mastermind, “The Professor,” who channels his frustration over wealth inequality into a heist against Spain’s Royal Mint. The Professor, along with his eight recruits, raid the The Royal Mint, stealing money and taking hostages to aid in negotiations with authorities. Money Heist has become an inspiration for resistance to real-life protestors. Some even wear the show’s iconic Dali mask, named after the revered Spanish artist, as a symbol of overcoming oppression.
Set in 2025, Money Heist: Korea takes place on the precipice of a reunification between North and South Korea, who have set up a joint economic area where the heist eventually takes place. Though differing in cultural aspects, the new version of Money Heist embodies the original’s theme of wealth disparity – something also prominent in Squid Game – and the illegal action of those who take matters into their own hands. Many of the characters, such as “The Professor,” even have the same name as their original counterparts. As such, Money Heist: Korea serves as a remake of Money Heist, grounded in Korean culture and the nation’s growing wealth disparity, sharing a strong connection with the original. However, this doesn’t mean it’s without its flaws.
The major flaw of Money Heist: Korea is its pace. Compared to the 22 episodes in Money Heist’s first season, the Korean counterpart has just six, though another six are expected to release later in 2022. The shortened runtime of the show results in a drastically diluted plot, such as the original’s Helsinki and Oslo shifting from an interesting LGBTQ+ storyline to having almost no lines at all. This was further worsened by the close similarities to Money Heist’s plot, essentially eliminating the potential for the cliff-hangers and suspense often central to the success of crime dramas.
On the other hand, Money Heist: Korea cleverly integrates Korean culture into the existing plot, and not just by including K-pop in its soundtrack (which it does). For example, the show replaces the iconic Dali masks with traditional Korean folk masks known as Hahoetal, often used in theatre. There are twelve versions, each representing different character archetypes; the one used in Money Heist: Korea is that of the aristocrats, who are often ridiculed for their power and self-importance. Rather than acting as a symbol of resistance like in the original series, the masks in Money Heist: Korea are used to mock the authorities who defend Korea’s capitalistic system.
It is too early to tell whether or not Money Heist: Korea will be as successful as Money Heist, but it seems unlikely. The overall predictability and thinning of the original storylines detract from some of Money Heist’s magic. However, it may attract new attention in Asia and is still worth watching for avid admireers who would like a fresh take on the original, and regular watchers of Korean dramas. If Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area doesn’t scratch the itch Money Heist left behind after ending, there is always the prologue spin-off based on its title character, Berlin, coming in 2023.