Episode 1 of Money Heist: Korea begins with shocking news. South and North Korea have managed to come to an agreement to reunify, with a common currency and no more fighting.
The year is 2025 and many people flee from Pyongyang and head down to Seoul. Many of these men and women are excited, with the train carriages filled with hope as everyone believes they’re moving to a better life.
Our protagonist, Tokyo, immediately finds herself smack bang in the middle of capitalist Korea, with her migration officer lying about the accommodation she has. She works as a waitress, eking out a living, while animosity among South Koreans manifests itself into protests on the street toward their Northern cousins.
Tokyo feels unfulfilled in this new life and even worse, she finds loan sharks taking advantage of vulnerable young women as a result. Tokyo is no stranger to this sort of hostility though, given she served in the army, and eventually kills them all.
It’s at this moment she realizes thieves are the ones who make the most amount of money, and decides to grab herself a slice of the action. With an open safe, she chooses to take the money for herself, setting up a lovely prologue for the story to follow.
We then cut forward one year later. Tokyo is wanted by police, having discovered a slew of similar robberies for different loan sharks – and her face has been outed to authorities.
Having lost her partner and with nowhere else to go, Tokyo finds herself alone outside, shakily rubbing blood from her hands. With a single bullet left, she decides to end it all. Thankfully, she’s saved by The Professor, who rocks up and recruits her, promising to change the world.
Just like in the original series, we’re introduced to The Professor’s students who all name themselves after different cities. There’s also a mixture of those from North and South Korea making up the team. And of course, the infamous Berlin, who actually happens to be the most wanted man in North Korea.
With names sorted, we learn The Professor intends to steal 4 trillion won from those who would see the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Their target is the Unified Korea Mint.
Fast forward 5 months and we get a look at the inner-workings of this Mint. There’s some commemorative coins about to circulate, right on the cusp of a summit, but that’s about to become old news compared to what’s about to go down.
With the Professor pulling the strings, barricades are set up on a dam as a police escort are held up at gunpoint by our attackers. After thwarting the police, they take their clothes, don their disguises and prepare to storm the Mint.
With the whole group moving through the building, Moscow forces everyone inside the Mint to get down, holding them up at gunpoint. The security are stopped, Rio freezes the electrics while the Professor keeps this operation moving.
Half the group – including Berlin, Tokyo and Nairobi – join together in the main atrium and keep everyone blindfolded and kept at gunpoint. Berlin directs traffic, convincing Misun, the woman whom the Mint Director is having an affair with, to pick up the phone from headquarters to make sure they don’t arouse any suspicions.
Down in the basement, Moscow opens up the safe and finds all the stacks of money. Now, part of this plan involves intentionally being caught by the police. They intend to wait for the cops, “retreating” back inside and enacting the second phase of their plan.
Things don’t go completely to plan especially as Rio is shot in the ensuing skirmish. With smoke grenades thrown to avoid gunfire, the group grab Rio and head back inside.
As a result, North and South Korea both discuss matters together and appoint a chief of JEA police, Yun Chansu, to oversee a task force made up of both North and South Korean soldiers.
Given this is happening at this unique area, the whole world happens to be watching. Woojin is among that taskforce; a smart woman who has a history of crisis negotiation. She takes charge, blowing the idea of a full-frontal assault out the water given how many hostages are inside.
Of course, this immediately causes tensions between Woojin and Captain Cha Moohyuk, who happens to be from North Korea. Still, Woojin communicates with the Professor, trying to start negotiations with those inside.
It’s a tricky situation though – something the Professor is exploiting- given there are still tensions between North and South Korea. The Professor eventually hangs up, which ultimately leads to Captain Cha deciding to go in with a full military force.
The Professor is clever though, having figured out ahead of time just who will be put in charge of this task force. They were well aware of Woojin’s connection, especially as the professor is actually dating her. This also gave him time to deduce a full military raid would be incoming, pointing out five different locations they’d be breaking in from.
Using all the hostages to their advantage, the group get them dressed up, with the hostages live on-air pleading with the soldiers to keep negotiating. Because of this, Captain Cha calls off the attack and they go back to the original plan.
And of course, the big twist here is that those inside the Mint actually intend to print their own money. They’re biding time and intend to disappear without a trace from authorities. But how long will they manage to hold out for?
The Episode Review
The first episode of Money Heist: Korea sets things up nicely with essentially a beat-for-beat remake of the original La Casa De Papel (The original title is so much better than Money Heist!)
There are some distinct differences though, given the hostility between North and South Korea, and that sets up this conflict in a really intriguing light. Specifically, seeing the North and South Koreans butt heads over the best way of tackling the Mint. Hopefully this is exploited further in the coming episodes.
It’s quite a unique stance and it’s an interesting way of framing this whole conflict. Of course, it also comes at the expense of everything else feeling very similar to the original. Given there’s been barely any time since the Spanish phenomenon first released (5 years to be precise!) this is going to be something fresh in many people’s minds.
Stull, the story is well developed and that bodes well for the rest of the series.
Expect a full season write-up for part 1 of Money Heist: Korea later this weekend!