This recap of the Netflix K-Drama series Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers.
If you watched the Spanish version of Money theft, labeled the original, then nothing about this story will seem unfamiliar to you. However, K-Drama has a knack for enhancing a story with high production value and an intense storyline, so I’m intrigued to see if they can top this series with a remake. Are you excited? I know I am.
Money Heist: Korea – Common Economic Space summary of season 1, episode 1
Episode 1 opens with Tokyo (played by Jun Jong-seo) recounting the unification of the two Koreas by creating a Common Economic Area (JEA). Tokyo was freed from the North Korean military, so she pursued her dream in the JEA, believing it would give her a better life. There is a sense of hope as Tokyo heads into the new area. She describes how some Koreans got rich through unification and how her landlord (and crime boss) left her in a tough spot and took advantage of her financially – she has a distaste for capitalism and begins to despise the “dream”.
Tokyo finds herself in a violent altercation with her crime boss, and after a fight, she points a gun at him. She shoots him while talking about how these men are thieves, so there’s no reason she can’t become one. It’s an exciting start for the Korean remake of Money theft.
Episode 1 then cuts to “1 Year Later.” Tokyo watches a news report about a robbery where one of the criminals was killed. The police are looking for her. The media blames the increase in crime due to illegal immigrants caused by the JEA, directed at the North Korean people. Tokyo holds her gun with her bloodied hand as she stands in the rain, contemplating suicide. But then the teacher (played by Yoo Ji-tae) shows up with an umbrella and asks if she’s okay. This is her first meeting with him. The professor tells Tokyo about a large-scale heist he’s planning and wants her to be a part of it. He believes this heist will make them heroes. Tokyo’s head is turned when he mentions that they are going to steal 4 trillion won.
The Professor leads a meeting with his heist team; he wants them to talk casually and have nicknames. If you’re familiar with the original series, these nicknames are named after different towns. Each member of the heist team brings a unique set of skills. The professor tells them that they will pull off the biggest heist in history, but without hurting or killing anyone. He wants public support. The professor then reveals the location – the Unified Mint of Korea in the JEA.
The series then moves five months later to the Unified Korea Mint. It sounds like a typical day for the bank. Vice director, Cho Youngmin (played by Park Myung-hoon), is having an affair with Youn Misun (played by Lee Joobeen). Youn tells the vice principal that they cannot continue their romance and hints that she is pregnant. Cho calls her a gold digger and they argue.
Meanwhile, a group of students arrive to visit the bank as part of a study trip, while the heist team plans their first day at the institution. They block security cars with deck barricades, dismantle radios, and kidnap security guards. Two members of the robbery team then put on security uniforms.
Slowly but surely, the heist team takes control of the bank, causing panic among bank colleagues and members of the public. The gates to the Unified Mint of Korea are closed and Phase 1 of the Professor’s plans are in place.
Berlin (played by Park Hae-soo) explains to the hostages that he is responsible as he breaks the rules. Cho Youngmin tells him that HQ is calling and they are going to wonder where they are, so Berlin asks Youn to answer the call and be as calm as possible. Cho made himself an easy target by getting on the wrong side of Berlin.
The professor (who is not inside the bank) orders the team to open the front door and open fire on the police but wants no one killed or injured. He states that it is crucial that their plan works. However, Rio (played by Park Jung-woo) ends up getting shot and he hits the ground. However, Rio is fine when they bring him back inside. With the police aware of the situation at the bank, the two Koreas form a special team to tackle the problem; they worry about what it will look like internationally.
Episode 1 then cuts to Seon Woojin (played by Kim Yunjin). She is enjoying her day off with her daughter, but she is called about the Mint. She is immediately integrated into the working group team as a negotiator. She is a fiery worker and is ready to defend herself against her superior, who represents North Korea.
Inside the bank, Berlin tells the hostages they are trapped but promises they will all get out safely as he gives them the same suits the heist team are wearing. Seon makes her first phone call to the professor and introduces herself as the negotiator. She asks if he can free some hostages as it won’t harm his operation. He tells her he will think about it. Seon is curious about the professor and wonders what his game is.
But then Seon sees an armed police team heading to the bank because they think the heist is just a team of four based on the professor’s information. Seon warns that it could be a trap, but his superior asks him to leave the tent. Seon heads to a bar for a drink, but at first the teacher is working behind it, so he serves her; she knows him too – they are friends. He anticipated this. The professor feels that the North Korean part of the task force currently has the upper hand.
As the police team heads inside, a YouTube video plays in which the hostages beg the task force to negotiate as they are all wearing the same clothes and fear for their safety. The task force team then realizes that one of the hostages in the video is the ambassador’s daughter, so the armed police team retreats. Seon is called back to the task force, just as the professor predicted. He then calls Berlin and asks if he wants to start the next part of the plan. Flashbacks show the professor telling the heist team that they plan to print the money. All notes will be untraceable.
If you know the original series, this story will not shock you. Still, there’s no doubt that this Korean remake is intriguing, especially with the political theme of North and South Korean divisions.
What did you think of the Netflix K-Drama series Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area season 1, episode 1? Comments below.
You can watch this series with a Netflix subscription.
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