The Radio Times logo

Money Heist: Korea review – A carbon copy with no clear audience

Netflix fumbles what could have been an easy win.

Money Heist: Korea review
Netflix
Published: Thursday, 23rd June 2022 at 2:05 pm
Subscribe to Radio Times magazine and get 12 issues for £1
A star rating of 2 out of 5.

Last year, Squid Game was credited with giving a considerable boost to subtitled entertainment, continuing the progress made by Spanish-language thriller Money Heist, which crossed borders several years earlier after landing on Netflix. As a result, it feels almost poetic to see the franchise adopted by the K-drama industry, with clear potential for another mammoth streaming hit that unites the fans of both.

Advertisement

But while a Korea-set Money Heist spin-off with all new characters and plotting – perhaps even set in the same universe as the original – seems like it could be an easy win, that's not what we have here. Instead, Netflix has opted for a straight-forward remake of the show's first season, with a near-identical cast and only minor tweaks to the plot where necessary to account for cultural differences.

Most notably, the premise moves to a near-future where war between North and South Korea comes to a peaceful end, with talks finalising a huge step towards total re-unification. The two nations decide to allow free movement between the north and the south, while the DMZ's Joint Security Area is converted into a Joint Economic Area where businesses from both sides can collaborate.

The move is initially welcomed with hopes that it will bring prosperity and a better standard of living for all Koreans, but it soon becomes apparent that only the ruling elites are benefitting. In fact, life has only become harder for working class people such as Tokyo (Jeon Jong-seo), a former soldier for the North, who falls into serious debt with a cruel loan shark after trying to start a new life in the South.

It's a bold idea on which to base this remake, particularly in light of the real-world tensions currently being felt, but frustratingly it rarely takes focus in the early episodes. There is the occasional glimmer of commentary on relations between the North and South, but the vast majority of time is taken up with an almost scene-by-scene recreation of Money Heist's first season. As a result, the show will be a tedious chore for anyone familiar with the Spanish version.

Money Heist: Korea cast
Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area Netflix

Money Heist: Korea stays rigidly faithful to the style and tone of the original, even down to the colour palette, direction and casting. Once again, The Professor's gang is comprised of Tokyo, Berlin, Rio, Denver, Moscow, Nairobi, Helsinki and Oslo, who all look and sound exactly as they did the first time around. Consequently, it's hard to get excited about even the strongest performances – such as Squid Game villain Park Hae-soo's take on Berlin – as they feel like little more than glorified impersonations.

It leaves you wondering who exactly Money Heist: Korea was made for. Longtime fans will struggle to survive on the morsels of new content in the early episodes, while it's hard to imagine why total newcomers would choose this version to begin with – even if Korean is your first language. After all, thanks to the global reach of Netflix, the original series is available to stream in South Korea with local subtitles, so anyone with a genuine interest in this franchise would presumably be drawn to that first.

It leaves this whole endeavour feeling rather pointless; more like the soulless output of an algorithm than something that anybody was asking for.

Money Heist: Korea is streaming on Netflix from Friday 24th June 2022. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.

The latest issue of Radio Times magazine is on sale now – subscribe now and get the next 12 issues for only £1. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.

A star rating of 2 out of 5.

Last year, Squid Game was credited with giving a considerable boost to subtitled entertainment, continuing the progress made by Spanish-language thriller Money Heist, which crossed borders several years earlier after landing on Netflix. As a result, it feels almost poetic to see the franchise adopted by the K-drama industry, with clear potential for another mammoth streaming hit that unites the fans of both.

But while a Korea-set Money Heist spin-off with all new characters and plotting – perhaps even set in the same universe as the original – seems like it could be an easy win, that's not what we have here. Instead, Netflix has opted for a straight-forward remake of the show's first season, with a near-identical cast and only minor tweaks to the plot where necessary to account for cultural differences.

Most notably, the premise moves to a near-future where war between North and South Korea comes to a peaceful end, with talks finalising a huge step towards total re-unification. The two nations decide to allow free movement between the north and the south, while the DMZ's Joint Security Area is converted into a Joint Economic Area where businesses from both sides can collaborate.

The move is initially welcomed with hopes that it will bring prosperity and a better standard of living for all Koreans, but it soon becomes apparent that only the ruling elites are benefitting. In fact, life has only become harder for working class people such as Tokyo (Jeon Jong-seo), a former soldier for the North, who falls into serious debt with a cruel loan shark after trying to start a new life in the South.

It's a bold idea on which to base this remake, particularly in light of the real-world tensions currently being felt, but frustratingly it rarely takes focus in the early episodes. There is the occasional glimmer of commentary on relations between the North and South, but the vast majority of time is taken up with an almost scene-by-scene recreation of Money Heist's first season. As a result, the show will be a tedious chore for anyone familiar with the Spanish version.

Money Heist: Korea cast
Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area Netflix

Money Heist: Korea stays rigidly faithful to the style and tone of the original, even down to the colour palette, direction and casting. Once again, The Professor's gang is comprised of Tokyo, Berlin, Rio, Denver, Moscow, Nairobi, Helsinki and Oslo, who all look and sound exactly as they did the first time around. Consequently, it's hard to get excited about even the strongest performances – such as Squid Game villain Park Hae-soo's take on Berlin – as they feel like little more than glorified impersonations.

It leaves you wondering who exactly Money Heist: Korea was made for. Longtime fans will struggle to survive on the morsels of new content in the early episodes, while it's hard to imagine why total newcomers would choose this version to begin with – even if Korean is your first language. After all, thanks to the global reach of Netflix, the original series is available to stream in South Korea with local subtitles, so anyone with a genuine interest in this franchise would presumably be drawn to that first.

It leaves this whole endeavour feeling rather pointless; more like the soulless output of an algorithm than something that anybody was asking for.

Money Heist: Korea is streaming on Netflix from Friday 24th June 2022. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.

Advertisement

The latest issue of Radio Times magazine is on sale now – subscribe now and get the next 12 issues for only £1. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content