By Kim Boram
SEOUL, June 22 (Yonhap) -- The director of the upcoming Netflix original series "Money Heist: Korea - Joint Economic Area" said Wednesday that the Korean adaptation of the global hit caper drama has own original flavor that incorporates the unique geopolitical situation on the Korean Peninsula.
"I watched the Spanish original in 2018 and I was impressed by its colorful characters and fantastic storyline," Kim Hong-sun, director of the 12-episode series, said in a press conference in Seoul. "I thought the intensity and freshness will stay on even in a different time and space. So I changed them into a Korean edition set in Korea."
"Money Heist: Korea - Joint Economy Area" is an original Netflix series based on the Spanish heist crime drama series of the same name, which is one of the most successful non-English TV series on the streamer.
The fifth season of the action-packed Spanish drama, released earlier this year, is the second most-watched non-English TV show in terms of viewing hours, following the No. 1 Korean survival drama "Squid Game" (2021).
The Korean "Money Heist" is set on the Korean Peninsula, where the two Koreas establish a joint economic area (JEA) as a first step toward unification. A group of thieves from the South and the North overtake the mint at the JEA and the police of the two Koreas join hands to stop them.
The director said he wanted to depict the current subtle inter-Korean relationship in a way that global audiences could find interesting along with the attractive fictional characters of the Spanish original.
"I expected that people around the world are curious about stories that South and North Koreas are entangled with," said the director, who has made hit TV thrillers including "The Guest" (2018) and "Voice" (2017). "I also wanted to feature the current inter-Korean situation as it is, and give some hopeful suggestions to deal with such an overwhelming situation."
Screenwriter Ryu Yong-jae also said he focused more on adding something very Korean into the Spanish heist series to create a Korean version of fried rice from Spanish rice dish "paella."
"But I didn't mean to write the story only for global viewers. I wanted to re-create the original Spanish caper story in order to capture the minds of Koreans who are so accustomed to such films and TV series on the two Koreas," he said. "I tried to infuse as much plausibility as I could, so that viewers can feel such inter-Korean crimes and crackdown projects can happen within a decade."
The cast members of "Money Heist" also gave credit to the originality of the Korean version.
"'Money Heist' has a huge fanbase across the world, and I believe its creativity is applicable to all countries," said actor Yoo Ji-tae, who takes the role of Professor, the mastermind of the heist. "It is well crafted with the situation on the Korean Peninsula along with Korean charm and wit."
The heist team members of the Korean version wear the Korean traditional "Hahoetal" masks, while the Spanish robbers put on the Salvador Dali masks that serve as a symbol of resistance and national pride in the country.
The smiling face of the Korean mask mirrors the lives of the common people and the society that they live in based on Korean traditional theatrical satire.
"The mask in the Korean 'Money Heist' is an important prop as it has satirical and critical messages toward the privileged," said "Squid Game" star Park Hae-soo, who plays Berlin, Professor's second-in-command. "When the whole cast wear masks, it was overwhelming. That will work in the show."
"Money Heist: Korea - Joint Economic Area" will be available on Netflix on Friday.