This review of the Netflix K-Drama series Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area Season 1 Part 1 does not contain spoilers..
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There is something romantic in the story of Money theft. It understands storytelling on a human level, reinforcing the importance of character development and intertwining with entertainment. The story is addictive and outrageous, pitting characters against each other with different intentions and motives. He somehow manages to make every second matter; conversations, actions and results. At the heart of it all, character development is more critical than the heist itself.
And so, when it was announced that Money theft was getting a South Korean remake planted on Netflix, I wasn’t worried at all. K-Drama seems to easily trump production value, performances, and stories in the western world. Something has been brewing in this industry for a few years, and squid game became the pinnacle of success. Money Heist: Korea – Common Economic Space nothing original, but it is a success.
The only significant difference is the storyline surrounding the characters. The Korean remake is set in the near future, where the war between North Korea and South Korea has caused a near financial collapse. Determined for peace and coalition, the two countries established a JEA (Joint Economic Area), where Koreans on both sides could work and, seemingly, prosper together. In the middle of the JEA is the Mint, where the money is produced. Of course, that’s where the heist takes place.
The heist itself draws inspiration from the original story with The Professor (played by Yoo Ji-tae) leading a group of society misfits to pull off the biggest bank robbery the world has ever seen. He wants to do this without causing casualties, and there is a thirst to win over public opinion. The series does well to tap into political dynamics. For example, there is disillusionment with North Koreans embedded in a democratic system, watching others prosper as they suffer in a new financial hybrid. This is one of the main reasons why Tokyo (played by Jun Jong-seo), who was once conscripted into the North Korean military, decided to live a life of bank robberies. She became irritated with capitalism.
And with that, Money Heist: Korea – Common Economic Space brings an extra flavor that the Spanish version could not provide. The division between the hostages, the heist team and the police is naturally based on the origin of the characters. It’s not just bank robbers against the state, but a mangled political system trying to work together to bring them down. The JEA faces an unprecedented stratagem against their new reality, with the need for a police force made up of North and South Koreans. It’s compelling and intriguing.
However, the only downside to this series is that it blatantly follows the original plot beat for beat for many stories. There are some slight differences, but audiences familiar with the Spanish version won’t feel surprised or stressed by the timeline of events. The same cleverness, strategy, and thrilling twists resurface 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 – Common Economic Space by his performance. The production is impressive (no surprise here), the storyline is punchy, and the characters do well to portray the original counterparts (yes, most have the same names). If you are a lucky viewer watching this story for the first time, you will be captivated by its clever storytelling.
It’s hard to assess 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 – Common Economic Space should conjure up more seasons before that judgment can be made. However, this remake is worth the time and investment, at least for the purely invested performance and production. Money theft is back, so we shouldn’t be grumbling.
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