The South Korean entertainment industry is famously known for its original content and having unique stories that have won the hearts of millions of people around the world. And thus, while watching “Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area,” the first question that comes to mind is, “What went wrong this time?” Loosely based on the original Spanish series of the same name, the Korean series, so far, follows a very similar premise, and it almost gets tiring for viewers to see all those storylines again. For a majority of the audience, who neither understands Spanish nor Korean and relies heavily on English subtitles to understand the narrative, it all looks the same, but yes, with different faces and a slightly different world. So again, was it fandom that got this show made? Or just a bad studio decision?
“Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area” lacks everything that the original series is known for. It has no “Bella ciao” factor in it because revolutions, revolts, and anarchy are the feelings that arise from the personal conflict of a nation. These struggles cannot be simply adopted or copied and pasted. The creators have tried to deal with that issue and thus have incorporated the on-going conflict between South and North Korea. They have set the political conflict between two nations in a fictional near-future, but does it work? Well, Season 1 just depicts a chunk of political tension between these two governments who are trying to reunite the Korean Peninsula, and the Professor, apparently, is a part of the planning process. So, again, is the Professor’s plan all about the money, or is there some deeper conspiracy or a greater cause behind it? Season 1 refuses to answer that prominent question that we have been so eagerly looking for. Instead, in six episodes of almost an hour each, the narrative only sets up the world and characters, about which we already know a lot.
What ‘Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area’ Is About?
A young girl, who is later known as Tokyo (played by Jeon Jong-seo), is a free bird who lives in a closed North Korean society. She joins the army and prepares for a battle as the hopes for North and South Korea’s reunification continue to decline until one day, suddenly, the soldiers get the news that the two governments are establishing an economic union and will soon develop a common currency that will allow people from both countries to buy things in the unified Korean Peninsula. Without wasting any moment, Tokyo leaves Pyongyang and arrives in Seoul to live her Korean dream.
In the year 2025, the Joint Security Area, which was once the symbol of the division of both countries, was converted into a Joint Economic Area that is used as a testing ground for economic cooperation. They also established a joint Korean Mint to print new currency notes for the unified Korean peninsula. However, as Tokyo arrives in South Korea, she is conned by her broker, and due to a lack of any job opportunities, she starts working odd jobs. Later, she witnesses the harassment of North Korean immigrants and decides to kill the vicious loan sharks who exploit them. In turn, she becomes a prime suspect in several murders. A year later, as Tokyo loses all hope and gets tired of running away from the police, she decides to kill herself when suddenly the Professor pays her a visit and offers her a job to steal a massive amount of money that will not only change her life but will also make her a hero. Tokyo decides to board the Professor’s bandwagon and soon meets his team of robbers (the same characters from the original series Season 1). After the introduction of each robber, the Professor finally unveils his plan to break into the Unified Korean Mint in the Joint Economic Area, where they will print and steal the new currency note.
The six robbers finally pull off the heist after five months of training. They enter the building on the same day when a school group is scheduled to arrive at the Mint. The Professor planned the heist on this particular day because one of the students on tour, Anne Kim, is the daughter of the US Ambassador, Marshall Kim, who plays a crucial role in uniting the two countries. As a result, the police cannot infiltrate the building because if anything happens to Anne, then it would have an adverse effect on the upcoming Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation summit. From hereon, “Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area” Season 1 follows a similar narrative to the original series.
Inside the Mint, the robbers start printing the new currency as it will be untraceable, while on the outside, the Professor keeps an eye on the South Korean crisis management leader, Seon Woojin, and falls in love with her. The Professor has created a fake identity, Park Sun-ho, and runs a café named “Bella Ciao” near the Mint, where Seon has been coming for quite some time. She, too, has feelings for the Professor, which further develops as the series proceeds, paving the way for an emotional conflict between the two.
What Was The Professor’s Escape Plan?
Instead of stealing the money, the Professor had planned to print it using the machinery inside the Mint. He told his team that these newly printed currency notes would be untraceable and, thus, they would be able to use them freely. They held the employees hostage and maintained a good reputation with the general public through the media so that they could buy some time to print the money. The Professor didn’t want the police to raid the premises, which was the entire reason for creating a complex plan to fool the police and compel them to move in circles. And while the police were busy chasing the shadow, the Professor instructed Moscow to dig a tunnel inside the safe that would become their escape route out of the Mint. He had also ordered his team to force the employees to dig another tunnel in the Mint, which was a fake tunnel to trick the police and avoid a chase in the end.
From outside the Mint, the Professor used a number of strategies to keep an eye on all the actions of the police so that he could tackle an attack even before the police could implement it. With Rio’s help, he planted a hacking device on Captain Cha Moohyuk’s cell phone and, with the help of the device, had been listening to their entire conversation the whole time to stay one step ahead of them. But while Seon Woojin was blindly in love with the Professor, it was Captain Cha who suspected that there was something wrong with this new guy, Park Sun-ho, aka, the Professor, and thus came to meet him at the end of Season 1.
‘Money Heist: Korea’ Season 1: Ending Explained – Did Professor Plan The Unification Of The Korean Peninsula?
By the end of Season 1, Moscow finally found some soil in the tunnel that he was digging, which meant it would soon be ready for their escape. While Nairobi, who was looking after the printing of the currency notes, needed only three more days to wrap up the job. The entire team speculated that they would be able to leave the Mint in another 72 hours if everything went according to plan. However, on the outside, the police had already recognized three suspects, i.e., Rio, Nairobi, and Berlin. Thus, even if they successfully escape the Mint, they would have to leave the country to live a peaceful life somewhere else. Song Jung-ho, aka Berlin, was suffering from a terminal illness, probably Parkinson’s disease and might die soon. It could also play an important role in the transformation of his narcissistic character in the upcoming season.
On the other hand, the Professor got carried away by his emotions and asked Seon Woojin to leave the case as it was taking a toll on her mental health. As Tokyo narrated the story, she explained why Woojin was so crucial to the success of the heist. However, if she leaves the special operation unit, then the Professor will have no means left to get the insights and that in turn could jeopardize the entire robbery. However, before Woojin could take that step, she found a piece of currency inside her pocket that was dropped by Anne Kim when Woojin went inside the Mint. The piece of the newly printed currency note probably gave her a hint about what the robbers had been planning all along, and thus she would do anything to stop them.
“Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area” Season 1 ended on a cliffhanger. Moohyuk, who suspected the new man in Woojin’s life, decided to pay a visit to his cafe and finally greeted Park Sun-ho, aka, the Professor. In the Korean series, the Professor used to teach (economics) at a university a few years ago, where Seon Woojin’s husband and National Assembly Member, Kim Sangman, met him. He was impressed by the Professor’s idea of uniting the Korean peninsula and thus took him to a person named Oh Jaeyun, who informed the Professor that North Korea was planning to implement an open-door policy, the first step toward the unification of North and South Korea. They had the means and the capital but needed an economic development strategy to move forward, and thus Oh Jaeyun requested the Professor to plan it for them. Even at this moment, the Professor had doubts about the entire scheme, yet he probably helped the government because of which the Joint Economic Area came into existence. Maybe the Professor only proposed that plan because he intended to steal the currency from the Mint later. And if the Professor is such an important person who played such a crucial role in the unification of the Korean peninsula, then both governments would have a record of his identity that Captain Cha Moohyuk could easily access. So the question here is, does Captain Cha Moohyuk know who the Professor is? He may not know that he is the mastermind behind the heist, but he may have an idea that he is the person who has written the future of the two countries.
Will There Be A Season 2?
“Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area” Season 2 will probably shed more light on the Professor’s involvement in the economic reforms while also exploring his emotional attachment with Seon Woojin. In the series, Seon Woojin has a young daughter whose custody is still under question. Woojin had accused her husband, Kim Sangman, of domestic assault, and he would go to any lengths to protect his image as he wished to run for the presidency of the unified Korean peninsula. The conflict between the two countries is the most interesting part of the entire Season 1. It also hints that maybe Kim Sangman has made some kind of deal with the North Koreans to secure his position in the new government, and the Professor only planned the heist on the Mint to attract world attention so that he can expose Kim’s sinister conspiracy. Only Season 2 will be able to reveal what is true and what’s not.
And last but not least, the success of the heist is still in question. If Woojin finds out that they are printing money inside the Mint, then she will raid the building as soon as possible, and thus the robbers have to leave the premises in haste. Hence, if we speculate on the basis of what has already happened in the original series, then indeed the heist is going to be successful, though with some collateral damage. However, it is possible that the creators can make some major changes in Season 2, and if it happens, then indeed, the next season is going to be a fun ride for the fans.
“Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area” is a 2022 Drama Thriller series directed by Kim Hong-sun.