Korean American actress Kim Yun-jin is a familiar face on the small screen thanks to her appearance on the American hit show Lost (2004 – 2010).
She’s back on the small screen once again – this time, starring in the Korean series Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area alongside an impressive ensemble cast of who’s who in K-drama landscape.
Among them are Yoo Ji-tae, Park Hae-soo, Jun Jong-seo, Lee Won-jong, Park Myung-hoon, Jang Yoon-ju and Lee Hyun-woo.
This Netflix Original is a remake of the popular Spanish show Money Heist (originally titled La Casa De Papel).
But from the get-go, Money Heist: Korea set itself apart from the Spanish drama with its unique setting, different plot developments and the use of the Hahoe mask (worn in one of the most iconic traditional Korean dances) instead of the Salvador Dali one.
These differences are what ultimately convinced Kim to be part of the cast.
“The original series is so popular so I wasn’t sure if we should make it at first, because I felt there would be a lot of pressure.
“But reading the script, I changed my mind because it was so good,” she said at a press conference held in Samseong-dong, Seoul, that was streamed online.
The 48-year-old actress added: “We were able to create something by extracting all the good things of the original and adding in a story only possible to be told by Koreans.”
Money Heist: Korea – like the original series – centres around a group of masked robbers that break into a mint based on a foolproof plan designed by a mastermind known only as The Professor.
Unlike the Spanish drama, however, the remake is set a few years in the future when North and South Korea are on the cusp of reunification.
And the money the robbers are eyeing is the new official currency of a unified Korea, being printed at the mint located at a space known as Joint Economic Area.
With this unique Korean perspective, scriptwriter Ryu Yong-jae and director Kim Hong-sun were able to make the show not only about the confrontation between the thieves and police, but also showcase conflict and harmony between the South Koreans and the North Koreans at different points in the story.
As for Kim, she plays South Korea’s top crisis negotiator, Senior Inspector Seon Woo-jin, whom the actress described as a complicated character.
“She is a top negotiator and a police officer. Aside from work, she’s a single mother fighting with her ex-husband over child custody. And her mother has Alzheimer’s.
“And while she’s living such a solitary life, a guy approaches her so she agonises between work and love too.
“I worked attentively on making her negotiator side believable, a top professional making fast decisions with superb brain.
“I also carefully designed her gaze so it’s shown on screen how she’s racking her brain while negotiating with The Professor.
“In the original series, Raquel has a habit of pulling her hair up just before negotiations. “Our director and writers had an interview with negotiators and they said that a strand of hair could interfere with a really intimate situation.
“I thought tying up the hair was pretty real and it portrayed the character too, so I’ve included a similar habit to the character.”
The global star further remarked that it feels like a dream to be participating in a Korean series that would be watched by people around the world.
“I went to other countries alone, and I suffered a lot and I struggled a lot,” said the Seoul-born Kim, who immigrated to the United States with her family in the 1980s.
“Nowadays, Korean content, directors and actors are all drawing a lot of attention worldwide so we can film everything in Korean (and it’s accepted). And Korean productions are streamed on a global scale.
“So, this is an amazing feeling, to be part of this journey. I hope this exposure continues so that more Korean actors and creators can be introduced to the world stage.”
On what she thinks is the charm of Korean content and Korean actors, Kim shared: “I posed this question to my friends – and a lot of people told me that it’s the characters within the Korean content, and 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.
“So, I think those are the charms of the Korean content and the reason why they’re so popular these days.
“And visually speaking, it’s wonderful. We have great creators and the stories are very multifaceted.
“We have a lot of diversity in our stories and the way we portray those stories.
“That’s why Korean content is garnering so much global love and attention. I am very proud and happy about this.”
Part 1 of Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area is available on Netflix. Part 2 is scheduled to premiere later this year.