“Money Heist: Korea” Is A Commercial Success Despite Negative Reviews From Domestic Audiences

“Those memorable characters (in the original) were all deflated in the Korean version…”

News outlet The Hankyoreh‘s headline for its review of Netflix‘s Money Heist: Korea reads “[How was Money Heist: Korea?] It Is Barely Watchable Only If You Didn’t Watch The Original.”

Media outlet Dispatch published its review with the headline, “Why is ‘Tokyo’ A North Korean ‘Army’? Money Heist: Korea The Crimes Committed By The Korean Version (Tokyo is a character in the drama).”

The vast majority of reviews online disparage the Korean version of Netflix’s Money Heist.

  • “Money Heist: Korea Jang Yoon Ju ‘I expected bad reviews, my Nairobi is a 10′” (sic)
  • “Disappointing Money Heist: Korea can’t have cake and eat it too.”
  • “Money Heist: Korea Park Hae Soo, ‘Destined for mixed reviews, thankful for bad reviews too.'”
  • “‘Reunited Korea is interesting’ vs. ‘Just a copy’ … Money Heist: Korea receives mixed review.”
  • “A badly built House of Cards (Korean title).”

Where did it go wrong?

Poster for Money Heist: Korea | Netflix

The K-Drama industry has seen a perfect partner in Netflix. The platform provides K-Drama writers freedom to push boundaries that were previously restricted by Korea’s strict censorship.

The marriage til now has been beyond what either party could have ever hoped for. Shows such as Kingdom, Sweet Home, and All Of Us Are Dead received love internationally and became a source of national pride.

Poster of All Of Us Are Dead | Netflix
Poster of Kingdom | Netflix

But nothing could have prepared the world, let alone Korea, for the international success of Squid Game.

Squid Game poster | Netflix

The thriller captivated audiences internationally and subsequently thrust stars Lee Jung Jae and HoYeon Jung into international stardom.

HoYeon Jung (left) and Lee Jung Jae (right) | Khan

K-Dramas seemed to be the hottest shows, and Korea was more than happy to meet the demand.

Domestic fans, therefore, were thrilled that Korea would get a shot at creating its own version of Money Heist, the thriller originally created in Spain.

Money Heist poster | Netflix

Money Heist revolves around a group of thieves that robs a bank. The show became a hit for its layers of character depth, and the meticulous pace of its storytelling.

Fans’ anticipation hit a zenith when it was reported actor Yoo Ji Tae would play the character known as Professor. Yoo Ji Tae is one of Korea’s most revered actors and is known for his stoic, even-keeled style of acting. He seemed perfect to play the Professor.

Yoo Ji Tae as Professor | Netflix
Álvaro Morte as Professor | Netflix

All the anticipation seemed to disappear within the first week of the Korean version’s release. Domestic audiences lambasted the drama and called the Korean version a cheap remake of the original.

Viewers’ biggest complaint was the pacing of the Korean version. The first season being only six episodes long, audiences felt rather than expounding on the original premise, the Korean version was too busy retelling highlights of the original. News outlet Ilgan Sports stated that the Korean version “Copied the story of the original in its entirety” and that the “Story lacks a centeral theme.”

Money Heist: Korea | Netflix

Media outlet Dispatch bemoaned the characters in the Korean version, writing, “Those memorable characters (in the original) were all deflated in the Korean version.”

Jeon Jong Seo‘s Tokyo was especially a target of ire from the audience. Jeon Jong Seo is a fabulous actor who has risen on stellar performances in movies such as Burning and The Call. The actor, however, had never led a series before. Dispatch called Jeon Jong Seo’s rendition “Charmless,” and the Hankyoreh‘s review called her character “Watered down.”

Jeon Jong Suh as Tokyo | @wjswhdtj94

Another beacon of criticism was the unbelievable backdrop of the drama. Korea’s version of Money Heist takes place in the future, where the two Koreas have opened its border. The drama depicts the two countries having minted a new shared currency while not expounding on any of the ramifications.

Cast of Money Heist: Korea | JoongAng Daily

A coalition of North Korean and South Korean military and police operatives negotiates with the Professor for the release of hostages. The coalition, however, is made up of stereotypical tropes, with the stern North Korean operatives contrasted with South Korea’s more logical and conscious officers. The Hankyoreh writes that these trite and shallow pretenses “Seem far from reality and lack believability. In a series that aims to immerse audiences, it fails.”

Yun Jin Kim (focused) leads the Bi-Korean coalition | Netflix

With all of this said, however, Netflix’s Money Heist: Korea is crushing it commercially.

The show has climbed to the top of Netflix’s global viewing chart and is first in 16 countries, including Korea, Brazil, Singapore, and Jamaica.

Poster for Money Heist: Korea | Netflix

In America, the show has seen its share of mixed reviews. The show is rated 5/10 on IMDB and has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 83% among critics and a 49% user score.

| Rotten Tomatoes

Have you watched the Korean version of Money Heist? Which version do you prefer?

Source: Hankyoreh, My Daily, Ilgan Sports and Dispatch