“Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area” has become Netflix’s latest Korean-made international hit. The Korean remake of “La Casa de Papel” (aka “Money Heist”) is in first place on the streaming giant’s Global Non-English top ten chart over the last week.
The series premiered on Friday (June 24), meaning that it only had three days to claim its spot in chart that covers the period June 20-26. During that time, it was played for 33.7 million hours. The series was also the number one show in South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand.
It joins other Korean shows which have scored well globally for Netflix. In the first half of 2022, shows including “All Of Us Are Dead,” “Juvenile Justice” and “Business Proposal” have all reached #1 with global audiences, the company reports. Last year, Netflix and “Squid Game” helped Korean content reach a new level of global audience consciousness.
A major international hit in its own right, the original “Casa de Papel” featured a group of thieves from diverse backgrounds who break into the Spanish banknote printing facility under the offsite guidance of a mysterious colleague.
The Korean version was intended to inject a layer of Korean cool and visual style to proceedings. It follows eight thieves as they stage a spectacular heist at a mint, this time situated in the newly unified zone between North and South Korea.
“As a big fan of the original Spanish series, I felt intrigued to tell this vibrant story in a Korean context,” said writer Ryu Yong-jae.
Netflix says it worked closely with the creators to ensure the remake would feel authentic to Korea while also adding nuances, such as traditional Korean face masks, to the visual storytelling, the narrative of the characters and the social commentary that was also present in the original.
“We were very lucky when we received this pitch from Ryu and the producing team, which felt like the right framework for a remake that would be respectful to the original while bringing something new that fans in Korea and globally would appreciate,” said Keo Lee, director of content, Netflix Korea.
“Money Heist: Korea” has scored reasonably strongly on pop culture ratings website Rotten Tomatoes. There it has achieved an 83% score, qualifying for a “certified fresh” red tomato, among critics. With audiences it has a lower 49% score and a tipped over popcorn bucket, which Rotten Tomatoes says happens when less than 60% of users give a movie or TV show a star rating of 3.5 or higher.
Audience comments focus significantly on how closely the remake hews to the original.
“Being remade means that a great original already exists. No matter how good a remake is, it can only be compared to the original, and it is easy to get bad reviews. Those who have already seen the Spanish version know the story. So it might be less fun. The main plot is based on a Spanish original. But it’s good because the details are Korean,” said Korean user, Changsik J.
“The end result is a series that’s perhaps best suited for either ‘Money Heist’ superfans or those entirely new to the franchise. Still, ‘Money Heist: Korea’ proves to be a compelling watch based on its updated geopolitical context,” said Vanity Fair in a pro review.
“We tried to take in the strong elements that the original work had and thought it would be interesting to add our own story to it. So, I think it’s natural that we are getting such varied reviews,” series director Kim Hong-sun told the Korea Times newspaper this week.