The path-breaking success of Netflix series "Squid Game" was a driving force in turning the South Korean adaptation of "Money Heist" into a reality, said director Kim Hong-sun, who believes Korean creators now have "an easier path forward" to showcase their content internationally.
Kim Hong-sun, who previously helmed TV dramas like "The Guest" and "Voice", said he hopes viewers enjoy watching "Money Heist: Korea—Joint Economic Area" as much as they did "Squid Game".
"I think we are here because of the big success of 'Squid Game'. Korean content is travelling globally and making great achievements worldwide. So thanks to the success, the followers would have an easier path forward. I got great help from 'Squid Game' and I enjoyed the show too.
"I hope the viewers find 'Money Heist: Korea' to be neck-and-neck with 'Squid Game'," the director said on Wednesday during a virtual press conference from Seoul which was also attended by PTI.
"Money Heist: Korea", an adaptation of the superhit Spanish series, is set in a fictional Joint Economic Area, in a futuristic world where the Korean Peninsula faces reunification. When the promise of 'a united Korea' fails, a mysterious master strategist called 'The Professor' (Yoo Ji-tae) assembles a team of desperados, each nicknamed after cities, to pull off the "biggest" heist at the Mint Bureau.
"Squid Game" star Park Hae-soo, who plays Berlin in "Money Heist: Korea", said while anticipating the success of his upcoming series was difficult, he banked upon the strength of the ensemble cast of the show.
"The show is set against the backdrop of a divided nation and there are some emotional conflicts that are inherently embedded in the storyline. The global audience will find joy in watching the show. We have great artists and creators in Korea. We followed the path of these great creators and I'm sure 'Money Heist: Korea' will follow the same path and create more opportunities," Park added.
"Squid Game", the award-winning Korean survival drama series which was officially renewed for a second season recently, became a global hit for the streamer upon its release last September, topping charts across the world to become the most-watched Netflix series of all time.
As the broke investment banker Cho Sang-woo aka player no 218, Park wore a green jumpsuit in "Squid Game". For "Money Heist: Korea", he slipped into a red jumpsuit with the Korean Hahoe mask, which replaces the famous Salvador Dali mask from the Spanish show.
"In Spain, the Dali mask was used to send the message of freedom. Here we used the Hahoe mask from the Andong area (regarded as a centre of Korean culture and folk traditions). It embodies the criticism of the powerful and it has a sense of humour in it as well," Park added.
The actor also noted that he has often played characters who are in a confined space.
"When characters are confined to a space, the tensions rise naturally. But, I wasn't drawn to one type of uniform. Next time, I hope to see you in a yellow uniform," he quipped.
"Money Heist", which ended its five-season run last year, was adapted as a "unique Korean tale" by director and writer Ryu Yong-jae, said Yoo Ji-tae.
"I know (the original) is a show with a great fandom. But a great story would be told well in any country. Korean content is now loved by people around the world and that is probably because our content creators have clever ideas and smart approaches. And that was done on this show as well," he added.
While many popular K-dramas such as "Crash Landing on You" and "The King 2 Hearts" explored the South-North Korea ties, director Kim said he wanted to address the subject through a "realistic" gaze and send out a message of hope for the neighbouring countries.
"I thought the story of the two Koreas can be told to the global audience once again because that was part of the curiosity of the global fans. So, the fictitious city of the Joint Economic Area was created for the show and what would happen if we are on the cusp of reunification in the future. I wanted to infuse that sense of hope into the show as well," he added.
If the original series was a 'paella', a classic Spanish rice dish, the upcoming take is 'bokkeumbap' (Korean fried rice), said writer Ryu of "My Holo Love" fame.
"The original story is stellar, and I thought about how I could make it so the Korean audience could enjoy it more. So there's a layer of the South and North Korea story, and it might not seem novel. But we have never seen inter-Korean relations come together with a heist, and robbers and police of the North and South Korean people coming together," he added.
Kim Yun-jin, who plays Seon Woo-jin, a crisis negotiation team leader of the National Police Agency, said Korean content is going big due to its relatability and diversity.
"We have great creators and the stories are multifaceted. We have a lot of diversity in our stories and the way we portray those stories. That's why K-content is garnering so much global love and attention."
The six-part crime drama will start streaming on Netflix from Friday.