Korea’s new heist series has stolen the hearts of audiences around the world, with Money Heist: Korea — Joint Economic Area topping the Global Non-English Top 10 last week. The reimagining of the Spanish mega hit series La Casa de Papel, which offers a fresh take on the genius heist strategist and crew of thieves with a Korean flair, was also the #1 show in South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand.
A little birdie told us that the cast and showrunners behind the series spilled some tea about the remake, so here are all the things you might not have known about Money Heist: Korea — Joint Economic Area.
1. The Formation of the Joint Economic Area
The original La Casa de Papel is known for its thrilling storyline that leaves the viewer no time to catch a breath. In this remake, the story is set in a Korean peninsula that was divided after the liberation in 1945 will soon be unified in 2026. The two Koreas establish a ‘Joint Economic Area’, a demilitarised zone that guarantees free travel and economic activity, as well as a Unified Korea Mint (UKM) to produce a unified currency.
“As a big fan of the original Spanish series, I felt intrigued to tell this vibrant story in a Korean context”, says Writer Ryu Yong-jae. Director Kim Hong-sun adds, “With the global K-drama phenomenon, fans will be curious about the added narrative of the Korean Peninsula”.
The joint task force, powered by both North and South, struggles to see eye to eye as they have different convictions, while also keeping hostages in check. Intense mind games unfold between the top-class thieves with a bold plan to steal four trillion won from the Unified Korean Mint (UKM).
2. The Traditional Korean Hahoe Mask
The series is not only drawing attention for being uniquely Korean in its setting, as the influence of Korean culture goes beyond the confines of its story. The visuals of the series are also packed with Korean characteristics and symbolism, bringing a new identity to the new remake.
The iconic Dali mask has been swapped out for the traditional Korean Hahoe mask, which many of its cast members have pointed out as their favourite concept of the series. Park Hae-soo, who plays Berlin, has called the Hahoe mask “a symbol of irony and rebellion against an unjust upper class”, which perfectly summarises the intention behind the crew’s heist.
The Hahoe mask, as Director Kim Hong-sun explains, has a vein of humour as it has a horrific-looking smile on the face akin to red-lipped clowns. Artistic director Seo Sung-kyung experimented with different models using various materials including plastic, chromium, steel, and rubber, and ended up swapping the original Dali masks’ warm wooden brown colour for a white glossy finish with black eyebrows.
3. Inside the Unified Korea Mint (UKM)
The Korea Unified Mint building and its surroundings have also been designed with Korean elements in mind. The inside of the Mint is architecturally adapted from the traditional Korean house Hanok, where a courtyard with pine trees and rocks sits in the middle alongside walls decorated with paintings.
As the story takes place in a limited space, director Kim Hong-sun added depth to its visual storytelling with the use of lighting direction and colour to illustrate incidents that are happening at the same time. With this, the Mint was designed to accommodate various light changes including its ceilings, courtyard, and use of projection bricks.
4. Eyes On the Cash Prize
With the reunification of the two Koreas comes a new unified currency as a foundation for the new union, and the only objective of la banda is to steal four trillion won. The unified currency used in the series features portraits of historical figures including Korean independence activists Yoo Gwan-soon and Ahn Jung-geun, the heroes of the modern and contemporary history of the two Koreas.
5. Money Heist Inspired by Malaysia?
Detektif Hamdahn a.k.a. Abe Dahn a.k.a. Luqman Podolski returns in another episode of D’Netflix Report with a brand new theory — could the most notorious Money Heist be inspired by a groundbreaking case… in Malaysia? That’s right! In the 1990s, there was a gang in Malaysia called the Mamak Gang, who stole gold bars that were worth a whopping 12 million ringgit.
What’s more is the resemblance of the Professor’s crew member’s names who are named after famous cities. Malaysians have been doing this for a long time, but instead of naming people after cities, we name cities after people. Think Iskandar Puteri in Johor or Gohtong Jaya in honour of Lim Gohtong in Bentong. See if we’re right and watch #DONECLAIM on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.
Part 1 of Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area is now streaming on Netflix.