Inquirer Super

Up close and personal with ‘Money Heist: Korea’ cast

By: Ruth L. Navarra

SEOUL—We discovered the following about these South Korean actors of “Money Heist: Korea”: Yoo Ji-tae is a goofball. Jang Yoon-ju is a playful scene-stealer. Lee Hyun-woo bends over with laughter when he hears something funny. And Park Hae-su wants everybody to know that he’s not scary.

The actors are part of the cast of “The Money Heist: Korea–Joint Economic Area.” It is the first face-to-face event of Netflix in the country after “Crash Landing on You” in 2019. Boy, a lot of things have changed. The most obvious one is the breaking down of the invisible wall between the actors and the journalists. Netflix calls it the K-wave immersion. I call it marvelous.

There were things that we were suddenly permitted to do. We were allowed to take photos with the stars and not just of them. The last time this happened was during the set visit of “Kingdom” at Kofic Namyangju Studios in the first quarter of 2018.

Meeting stars
The Asia Pacific press with “Money Heist: Korea” cast

“Kingdom” is the first Korean Netflix original. These close encounters give us a quick preview of their personalities. Yoo, who plays The Professor, was quick to squeeze himself in when I was taking a selfie on the stage. He smiled at the camera and made finger hearts. InseparableWhen Kim Yun-jin (Senior Inspector Seon Woo-jin) saw what Yoo was doing, she joined the frame. She waved at the camera and smiled.

The two gave me the courage to approach the other actors. I asked Park (Berlin) if we could take a picture. We were crowded around him. But because I was the first one to ask, he pulled me out, told the others to wait, and took my phone and our selfie. Helsinki, played by Kim Ji-hoon, and Oslo, played by Lee Kyu-ho, were inseparable in the sea of journalists and actors.

They were so tall that they dwarfed me. Next to them was creator and writer Ryu Young-jae who enjoyed watching the chaos around him. He thought I was asking him to take our photos so he reached his hand out for my phone. He gave me a huge smile when I said that I want him in the photo.

Weight of cash

Denver is played by Kim Ji-hun in “Money Heist: Korea.” The actor was already leaving the stage when I called him and he went back for me. But the person I was really after was Rio played by Lee Hyun-woo. I was able to tell him that I enjoyed his last drama before entering the military service “The Liar and His Lover” (2017). He stood straight, and gave his signature grin before bowing to me and said his thanks.

There was also a session where it was like a fanmeet wherein the actors granted requests from journalists. The requests were chosen via raffle and Inquirer Super was luckily picked. Kim Ji-hoon had to do an acrostic poetry of “I love you, Philippines.”

We added that we wanted him to do it in sexy style. The entire afternoon was clearly making up for the lack of face-to-face interaction for the past two years. If this is going to be the future norm then it looks like the post COVID-19 era is all about the personalized experience. However, we didn’t forget that the reason we were there was to find out more about the show.

One local journalist asked if the weight of the bills was considered when they were filming. Director Kim Hong-sun answered, “We thought about it. The scale, the size and the weight of it will revealed in Part 2. But to avoid spoilers, I cannot really go deeply into it.”

Ryu said that the amount to be stolen by the robbers was just converted from the original show.

“Of course, the physical limits would be there for the robbers to move, and actually, the maximum amount that can be handled by the robbers’ team was 4 trillion won,” said Ryu.

Photos from Netflix
Multi-layered meaning

We first thought of this aspect because holding guns in Korea is illegal. The peninsula is surrounded by three seas, and we have North Korea on the top. how are you going to escape?” said Ryu.

This was how they created the city called Joint Economic Area (JEA). Ryu said that it was important that the escape would be very Korean and appropriate to the geography of the country. Yun-jin was asked why she thinks Korean content has garnered so much audience. The actress starred in shows overseas including the 2004-2010 series “Lost.”

“A lot of people told me that it was the characters within the Korean content. It’s the way Korean actors act. It’s really easy for people to put themselves in the characters’ shoes. And we pull at the heartstrings a lot,” she said. “And visually speaking, it’s wonderful. We have great creators and the stories are very multifaceted. So I think we have a lot of diversity in our stories and the way we portray those stories. I think that’s why K-content is garnering so much global love and attention.”

The robbers have to wear the Hahoe (pronounced as “ha-hwe”) mask in the Korean remake. Lee Hyun-woo said that it gave him confidence whenever he had to put it on.

“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,” he said.

Jun Jong-seo, who plays Tokyo, said that she was very curious about the kind of mask that they will be wearing.

Chemistry

“I was really surprised because it is not a plain-looking mask. It has a big smile on it and sends a sense of humor and at the same time sends a sense of mystery as well. It has multi-layered meaning to it and I was feeling intrigued by it,” she said.

When it came to chemistry with fellow actors, Jang Yoon-ju gave the best answer. At first she said that her chemistry with other people will be seen in part 2.

“In Part 1, I have my best chemistry with money. (laughs) But I do have chemistry with someone in Part 2 of ‘Money Heist: Korea, so please stay tuned,” she said.

Lee Wun-jong, who plays Moscow, said that he and Ji-hun worked so well together that Ji-hun has started calling him “father” even off-camera. They had to use the Gyeongsang dialect so they had to practice together to learn the dialect and its accent. They did full rehearsals with another actor from that province and practiced moving their bodies together.

Park Myung-hoon, who plays Cho Young-min or the counterpart of Arturito, also gave a funny answer.

“I don’t have chemistry with anyone because I’m a selfish opportunist and I sacrifice other people for myself. So I’m a lone wolf. I just want to get out of this place all by myself, so I have chemistry with myself,” he said. Didn’t he have any chemistry with Lee Joo-been who played Yun Mi-sun, the counterpart of Stockholm?

“Yes, sorry, I just thought about myself, I was being selfish. I do have chemistry with Joo-been,” he answered cheekily.

Like a mom

Kim Seong-o, who played Captain Cha Moo-hyuk—who was originally from North Korea—said that he enjoyed working with Yun-jin because she was like a mom to him.

“Moms are adorable, and you wanna give moms a big hug. So on the set, I usually don’t go around hugging people, but Yunjin was like a mom to me. I would give her a big hug, we would have a lot of chats together. It was immense fun,” he said.

The first six episodes of “Money Heist: Korea –Joint Economic Area” is streaming on Netflix.

Follow Super K on Facebook and Inquirer Super on Instagram and Twitter.