PRESS CONFERENCE: “Money Heist Korea” Lead Stars and Creative Team Reveal Character Stories and Filming Insights

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All oozing with energy and confidence, the actors and showrunners of Money Heist Korea Joint Economic Area Part 1 relayed candid stories and meaningful goals the series hopes to achieve.

The event was attended by director Kim Hong Sun and writer Ryu Yong Jae. Joining them is the lead cast: Yoo Ji Tae (Professor), Kim Yun Jin (Seon Woojin), Park Hae Soo (Berlin), Jun Jong Seo (Tokyo), Lee Won Jong (Moscow), Park Myung Hoon (Cho Youngmin), Kim Sung Oh (Cha Moohyuk), Kim Ji Hoon (Denver), Jang Yoon Ju (Nairobi), Lee Joo Bin (Yun Misun), Lee Hyun Woo (Rio), Kim Ji Hoon (Helsinki) and Lee Kyu-ho (Oslo).

Money Heist Korea Joint Economic Area Part 1 threads on the story of how Korea is on the brink of unification, and North and South Korea establish the Unified Korea Mint and are printing one common currency as the groundwork to build a stable joint economy.

Despite people’s expectations, “only the rich got richer,” leading to severe inequality. Against this unfair world, a crew of thieves, including Tokyo, an ex-soldier from the North, unite under the leadership of a mastermind known as the Professor to plan an unprecedented heist – stealing money yet to exist!

The only things standing between them are a joint task force led by South Korean Negotiation specialist, Seon Woojin, and a North Korean agent, Cha Moohyu, epic mind games, and time.

Challenges and Creative Process Considered in Money Heist Korea

Both Director Kim and Writer Ryu saw the original version and enjoyed the series immensely. Their vision to make a Korean remake was thankfully sealed.

“Because it’s a Netflix original series, I can’t just buy the copyright for it, they have to offer me the job.
And we knew that we could twist this into a Korean tale, and we pondered a lot. And then, we showed our plan to the original creator and we talked a lot with Netflix, and we were able to make it into a Korean tale.” – Ryu Young Jae

“I knew that the characters would be very intriguing whenever and wherever they would be placed in. So, I thought, if we translate the background and characters into something Korean, I thought we could give birth to something novel. And that’s how we started.” – Kim Hong Sun

Director Hong further relays the pressure is expected when adapting a well-loved series. When he previously talked with the global press, he asked them if the series can be done in their respective countries. The response was remotely possible. That is where he put his efforts in. He had to make the Korean version convincing and realistic

From there, the director focused on stories of the two Koreas that can be told and will be appealing to global viewers. With that, the Joint Economic Area, a fictitious city, has
been created for the show.

“The North and South Korea situation is something that I wanted to depict in the show. And if this happens in the future, if we are on the cusp of reunification in the future, and if this is happening in reality, what would happen – I wanted to infuse that kind of sense of hope into the show as well.”

The Korean Flavor in Money Heist Korea

Yoo Ji Tae confidently conveys the Korean flavor that would make Money Heist Korea a great watch for the global audience,

“Well, it is a show with great fandom, I know, but a great story would be told well in any situation, any country, I thought. And Korean content is now beloved by so many people around the world, and that is probably because Korean content creators have really clever ideas and smart approaches. And that was of course done on this show as well. I mean, our own charms and our own sense of humor are all infused in the show. Please enjoy the show.”

Seasoned actress Kim Yun Jin expounds on how the Korean adaptation was able to present a fresh take on the backdrop of Korea’s divided nation.

“The original series is so popular, so I was unsure of whether we should actually make it in the start because I felt a lot of pressure. But unfortunately, Korea is the only divided country left on the world and we were able to create something by compressing all the good essence of the original and writer Ryu actually created a really beautiful script, and reading the script, I thought that I would be able to do this because the script is so good.”

Park Hae Soo and Jeon Jeong Seo share their insights about hahoe mask as one of the distinctive symbols in Money Heist Korea. Park mentions that Hahoe mask from Andong area holds some significance by embodying the criticism of the powerful. At the same time, it has a sense of humor in it.

“When the mask was first brought to me, I actually felt this sense of overwhelming power when the mask is worn by every member of the cast.”

Echoing Park’s amazement, Jeon agrees with the compelling vibe of hahoe mask.

“When we saw the mask in reality, I was really surprised because it is not a plain-looking mask, it is having a big smile on it and sends a sense of humor and at the same time sends a sense of mystery as well. So, it has multi-layered meaning to it and I was feeling really intrigued by the mask.

Money Heist Korea press conference

Main Cast Introduced Their Characters

Having a big cast playing in the narrative, attention to individual portrayals and how the cast blend as a whole is anticipated.

Yoo Ji Tae as the Professor

Leading the team is Yoo Ji Tae as the Professor. Against the Unified Korea Mint, the Professor is planning a heist that is unprecedented. He is a genius strategist full of convictions, so even when he’s committing a crime, there should be no victims, no people who get injured or hurt. Positioned in the headquarters, he oversees the overall situation to make sure the crew gets the job done.

“I played the role of villains many times, but a strategist who is committing a crime and at the same time thinking that there should be no one getting hurt, I mean this is the first time for me to portray this kind of character as well.”

Kim Yun Jin as Seon Woojin

Portraying Woo-jin, a senior inspector at the Gyeonggi Police Crisis Negotiation Team, Kim describes her as a negotiator in the joint task force team. She is excellent in her own prowess. Also, calm and cold-hearted. Her strategy is to look into the weakness of the robbers to finish the situation as soon as possible.

Interestingly, Woojin and the Professor actually have something in common. They do not want any harm to anybody. Thus, Woojin doesn’t want to go for armed repression. She wants to finish things in peace. With ideas and conversations, she wants to address the situation peacefully.

Park Hae Soo as Berlin

Adorably quipping that he qualifies as a regular employee of Netflix somehow, Park Hae Soo delineates his character as an embodiment of the pain and sorrow that the two Koreas confront.

Berlin, the actor narrates, served in a forced North Korea labor camp for a long time until he escaped. Within the confined space of the Mint, he is using different methods to control the hostages there, and he is a cold-hearted person.

When host Park Kyung Lim mentioned he’s now using a red jumpsuit in Money Heist Korea after previously wearing green sweats in Squid Game, he rides the joke that he can wear yellow next time to complete the street lights’ colors.

Jeon Jeong Seo as Tokyo

Aiming for another remarkable character after her stints in Burning and The Call, Jeon details how Tokyo is an ordinary girl living in North Korea aspiring to achieve the Korean dream so she came to South Korea. However, she experienced the bitterness of capitalism. Then, she meets the Professor whom she follows unconditionally while gambling with her own life.

Initially, Jeon Jeong Seo had an inkling that she will get the role of Tokyo. Though she initially wanted the role of Misun. She also hints at what to expect in Korean version of Tokyo.

“The new Tokyo in the Korean version is going to be the most different from the original character. She is a Gen Z, she’s in her 20s, and the realistic elements of those in her 20s are reflected in the show. She is the purest, I would say, and she is so much into the conviction of the Professor so she doesn’t get distracted, she’s very stable, and she is just focusing on one goal. And she is trying to lead everybody to go to that goal, so she is not a troublemaker.”

Lee Won Jong as Moscow

Relaying his happiness working together with Jeon Jeong Seo, the seasoned actor put into words the struggle of his character Moscow.

“Moscow has lived life in a dead-end, and he has a son who might end up in the dead-end, too. He cares so much about his son. For him, the heist is the last string of hope that he is trying to hold onto. That hope led him to work with the Professor.”

Sharing his great onscreen chemistry with Park Ji Hoon, the actor said that Park still calls him “dad”. He also hopes their warm relationship continues.

“In our shooting process, the most difficult actions were played by my son Denver. And there were so many dangerous scenes. He was rescued from the wall, and in that moment, I was really holding onto him really tightly because I didn’t want him to get hurt. So, I kind of felt this fatherly love towards Ji-hoon naturally.”

Park Myung Hoon as Young-min

Playing a villainous role, Park recounts how he landed the role of Young-min. He was at a bar when he met writer Ryu who talked about Money Heist. Thinking it was all drunk talk, he agrees to work together, and two years later he got the official offer.

Giving a glimpse of his bad character, much is to be pined after in his role.

“I think he is even worse than the robbers. He is the chief of the Unified Korea Mint, and he is having an affair with his subordinate Misun. He is a dreadful opportunist who eagerly seeks the chance to escape at the expense of others.”

Kim Sung Oh as Cha Moo-hyuk

In detail, the chameleon actor communicates his role as Cha Moo-hyuk, a former special agent from the North. He is the captain of the Ministry of People’s Security of DPRK.

Admitting to his great synergy with Kim Yun Jin, he shared receiving a lot of “motherly love”.

“On the set, I usually don’t go around hugging people, but Yunjin was like a mom to me, so would give her a big hug, we would have a lot of chats together, so it was immense fun.”

Kim Ji Hoon as Denver

As previously stated by Lee Won Jong, Park Ji Hoon takes the bulk of the action in Money Heist Korea.

The actor completely disclosed the highlights of his character.

“He used to be a backstreet gang and he used to fight at illegal fight arenas, so he is quite good at fighting. And since when he was young, he didn’t study. He was always in the illegal fight arenas and he is not very smart. He is very simple-minded and you can really stir him up easily. So, when he sees something not just, he would be fired up. But he’s also innocent and naïve so I think he’s quite charming.”

Returning the warm words his onscreen father said, Kim, likewise mentioned how he felt the care of Lee like he was his real son. He reckons a scene that can attest to how they are synched as father-and-son in the series.

“I could really feel that love. So, I could open up to him really fast, and he was a dad that really pulled at my heartstrings. It was just natural that we felt this love towards each other. I think it was the first scene where there was an explosion of the wall. Moscow comes out from the explosion and he almost died, well I wouldn’t say that, but I could feel that in my ears because the explosion was so loud, it looked so realistic. So, I just had to go and hug him.”

Jang Yoon Ju as Nairobi

In charge of the zest in the story is Nairobi. Jang imparts that her character is a counterfeit expert. She is cheerful and she’s like the life of the party so she prints money
like she’s partying.

Moreover, she explains she resonated well with Nairobi.

“I’m pretty cheerful in real life and Nairobi is too. I’m energetic myself and Nairobi is energetic and lively herself.  We both have warm hearts and we could really relate to others.”

Lee Joo Bin as Misun

Putting forward her character, Lee details that Misun is an accounting staff at the Mint who is having an affair with chief Cho Youngmin.

She gets caught up in Youngmin’s reckless plan for escape, but she gets betrayed and she gets taken hostage by the robbers so she really faces the crisis of her lifetime.

Confessing how she liked the original version, she explained feeling grateful for the project.

“When the original Spanish series was out, there was so much word of mouth. People told me it was so fun, so I watched it too. And I loved the sound, the rhythm, the ambiance of the Spanish language, and of course, the subject material was so novel. So, I thought about what it would be like if the show was made into a Korean version. And then it actually happened and I was even offered a role in it. So, it was unbelievable and amazing.”

Lee Hyun Woo as Rio

Post military service, Lee Hyun Woo streaks a few projects on small and big screens.

For Money Heist Korea, the actor suits up as Rio, a cheerful naive boy who sometimes seems childish. He is a genius hacker so he uses this expertise to help connect Professor with the gang inside the Mint. And he’s the youngest of the crew.

Stating Rio has a distinct growth arc as a character, Lee also remarked how the hahoe mask and red jumpsuit brought confidence while filming.

“When you put on the Hahoe mask, people can’t see your facial expressions. So somehow, I got a little more confident so I could act a little more boldly when I’m behind the mask. And when we’re in the red jumpsuit altogether and when we’re standing together, that kind of uniformity gives that camaraderie. So, I felt backed up and I felt more energetic when I was wearing the red jumpsuit.”

Kim Ji Hoon as Helsinki

Dubbed as one of the resident strong men of the team, Helsinki is a former troubleshooter from Yeonbyeon, China.

Kim shares that his character is a master of various firearms, explosives, and military equipment. And he looks very rough, but on the inside, he has a soft heart, and he’s very loyal.

Being part of a big project, Kim shared how he had to explain to his friends what his project is and they were amazed the how the series will be shown worldwide.

He adorably confessed how he also had a surreal moment being in the project so he was not surprised that his mother and parents were taken aback.

Lee Kyu Ho as Oslo

Oslo is the best buddy of Helsinki. He is the biggest guy in the gang. Lee shares that Oslo might look daunting but sometimes he is kind of giving a warm heart to the hostages and he acts with warmth too.

Similar to his onscreen best friend, Lee feels grateful for the opportunity. He received compliments and congratulatory messages.

“I was really honored just to be a part of this. And the fans and the viewers are waiting for the show for sure, and we had put in the best efforts possible to meet your expectations. So please send us a lot of love and support, thank you.”

Money Heist Korea Filming Trivia

While filming, Kim Yun Jin relayed that the robbers and the police can’t meet. There’s only one scene that which they met. That’s when she also exchanged numbers with Jang Yoon Ju who became really close with her.

Director Kim responds to a media question about how Money Heist Korea would fair in the caper genre. He emphasized how the characters are really diverse and multi-layered, thereby making it a fun watch.

Writer Ryu adds that the featured inter-Korean relationship moves the dynamic chemistry among the cast owing to the divided nation premise of the story.

One sharp question from a journalist asked the creative team about the physical limitation that would arise for the amount of money the heist is trying to pull off. Director Kim and Writer Ryu assure the audience that it will be seamlessly revealed and tips that it would be in Part 2 of Money Heist Korea Joint Economic Area.

Park Hae Soo revealed they had a North Korean dialect tutor to perfectly capture their characters. They also learned Pyongan or Hamgyong dialect. Additionally, Lee Won Jong and Park Ji Hoon use Gyeongsang dialect in the series.

Money Heist Korea press conference

One Word To Describe Each Money Heist Korea Character

Wrapping up the media conference, the actors were asked to describe their characters in one word and share the ideals they resonate with.

Yoo Ji Tae replied “conviction” while Park Hae Soo picked “patience”.

Lee Won Jong mentioned “fatherly love” as Park Ji Hoon thinks he is similar to Denver for not putting up with injustice.

Next, Jang Yoon Ju remarked “unrivaled” as Lee Hyun Woo chose “growth”.

Both Kim Sung Oh and Lee Joo Bin think “determination” is inherent to their characters.

Likewise, Park Ji Hoon and Lee Kyu Ho agree that all the characters were looking for “peace” in their lives.

Don’t miss the global premiere of Money Heist Korea Joint Economic Area Part 1 on June 24 exclusively on Netflix!

abbyinhallyuland extends gratitude to Netflix for the invite to the press conference

All photos courtesy of Netflix