Warning: This article contains spoilers about Money Heist and season 1 of Money Heist Korea.
Seon Woo-jin (Kim Yun-jin) has a lot to deal with in Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area.
The heist team at the center of international hit Money Heist's new Korean iteration has their hands full, but it's negotiator Woo-jin who is spinning the most plates. While trying to bring the heist to a peaceful end, she also has a sick mother, a custody battle with her powerful ex-husband, and a budding relationship with Park Sun-ho, the identity the Professor (Yoo Ji-tae) uses to get close to Woo-jin and the mastermind behind the heist.
Jung Jaegu/Netflix Kim Yunjin as Seon Woojin and Kim Seung-o as Cha Moohyuk
Some may argue that it's too soon to remake Money Heist, but the new version has additional layers to the story that set it apart. Like the original, Money Heist Korea is about a band of thieves brought together by a mastermind calling himself the Professor to pull off an epic heist. The new series is set in the near future, where North and South Korea are unifying. The timing of the heist purposefully takes place after the unification is announced, but before many people have come around to the idea. Not only does this add tension throughout the series, both in the task force and in the bank, but it also means the world is watching this unfold for more than the spectacle that high-profile crimes became through media.
"In the task force itself, we have North Korean ways and South Korean ways," Yun-jin tells EW. "It adds another really tense layer, which makes everything a little more complicated and is a lot more fun as actors to play." We see these complications in the tension within the task force and the bank when Berlin separates the North Korean and South Korean hostages to get control of them. He intends to play on the tension that exists.
We can also see the added political and cultural layer in Woo-jin's evolving relationship with Captain Cha Moo-hyuk (Kim Sung-oh). The pair begin by butting heads and eventually grow to trust one another. Part of that advances the story, specifically when Captain Cha believes she is the mole helping the Professor, but there is more to it. While Yun-jin says the show is not intending to be political at all, their journey mirrors the difference between countries deciding to unify and the people living in the two countries accepting it. "There is that realistic level of if we as North Koreans and South Koreans, even if there is unification, how long will it take for people to open their hearts?" she explains. "You get a taste of how people might build relationships in that sense through their teamwork." Part 1 ends with Captain Cha visiting the Professor, so you can expect the two officers to continue to build their relationship moving forward.
Woo-jin has an uphill battle to close the case after the Professor's crew hits the mint. Not only is the task force made up of North and South Korean officers, but she is a woman in a man's world and all of the underestimation that comes with it. That makes her desire to end the situation with negotiation, and not violence, even more difficult. "My character believes in solving this peacefully. Not with force, but with words and ideas," Yun-jin says.
Another change from the original Money Heist is the makeup of Seon Woo-jin's family. Unlike Raquel from the original series, Woo-jin has an ex-husband who is also an influential political figure. We see some of their custody battle in the first batch of episodes, but he will also become a force working against her at work. "In part two, he becomes another obstacle in her way to solving this as peacefully as possible," she says. "That was such a smart change we made in the Korean version of the story."
The biggest obstacle in Woo-jin's way is the one she isn't aware of: that the Professor is masquerading as her new boyfriend as part of the heist. The Professor has put together this intricate plan, but it was essential to Yun-jin that her character's intelligence not get lost in the story. "It was a real ping pong game," she says about Woo-jin's battle with the Professor. Yun-jin was worried about how Seon Woo-jin would come across, because everyone knows she is being duped except for her. She alleviated that by not making eye contact with the Professor in their romantic scenes. "Whenever he was winking to the audience, or it was obvious, I was not watching him at all. I didn't want for a second for Woo-jin to be making eye contact with him then," she explains.
By the end of the first part, we see the love the Professor and Woo-jin share. It's first clear when she seeks him out after making a huge mistake by getting the director of the mind shot and an incident with her sick mother. "That's sort of this moment where this new boyfriend is an escape for her, room to breathe and to be a real person," she explains. She also declares her love for him when pressed by Captain Cha about when her new suitor entered her life. Woo-jin developing strong feelings is an understandable byproduct of the Professor pretending to be her boyfriend. Still, it's a big mistake on his part as the heist's mastermind.
Money Heist Korea is just getting started. The second part will introduce a new character that is very different from the original story, which will be interesting for fans of the original Money Heist. Yun-jin teases that the second part will be more thrilling and exciting, and she cannot wait for viewers to see what's next.
The first six episodes of Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area are now streaming on Netflix.
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