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Monday, August 8, 2022

Is The Paper House: Korea worth watching? Differences and similarities with the original series

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Netflix premiered this Friday The Paper House: Korea. It is the first international version of the great Spanish worldwide success that was born on Antena 3 and that Netflix has taken around the world: the last two episodes, with the exception of the two most watched seasons, are of a non-English language series on Netflix by the squid game. But is it worth following the new version if you’ve already seen the original? What changes and what stays? We watched the first chapter of the Korean production and reworked the Spanish pilot to find their similarities and differences. Eye, this article bares the first chapter of The Paper House: Korea:


action and duration

The first episode of the Korean series is 78 minutes long; that of the original version lasted 80 minutes (the duration is shorter in the new montage created for the international broadcast of the series on Netflix). The following have a duration of about 70 minutes in both cases. The Asian respects the Spaniard’s storylines, at least initially. The plot follows the unfolding of a perfect plan devised by a man who calls himself a professor. Recruit different people with criminal backgrounds and different skills to carry out a heist: at the Unified Korea Mint in the Korean version; in Spain the national currency and stamp factory.

In a five-month retreat (the Toledo farm is now an abandoned swimming pool), he describes the plan, gives them names of cities so they don’t know their identities, and they study each step. The day in question coincides with a school visit involving the daughter of a diplomat (US Ambassador in the Korean version; UK in the Spanish version). The aim is not to steal the money from the building, but to print your own bills so that nobody is robbed and another major goal of the thieves can be achieved: gaining the favor of public opinion. Outside, the police are trying to stop the coup by hiring an inspector to negotiate with the professor over the phone.

From left: Lee Hyun-woo as Rio, Kim Ji-hun as Denver and Lee Won-jong as Moscow in the first episode of Money Heist: Korea.Jung Jaegu/Netflix


Tokyo, Berlin, Nairobi, Denver, Rio, Moscow, Helsinki, Oslo, the Professor… The names and personalities of the band members are identical, but there are slight nuances. Korean Tokyo (actress Jeon Jong-seo) is a young North Korean soldier who has been consuming South Korean cultural products her whole life and leaves Pyongyang for Seoul. Things will not go as he imagined there and he will become a victim of capitalism. She works in an escort club until one day, after seeing a colleague being beaten, she kills two men. The two women become loan sharks. When she gets hit, her friend dies and becomes a target for the police. When the professor finds her, he is about to commit suicide. From Tokyo, played by Úrsula Corberó, we only learned in the first chapter that she had taken to stealing with her boyfriend until a robbery went wrong, he died and killed whoever had killed him, thus becoming a fugitive, but all this is only told to us, we only see it much later.

Denver-based Korean Kim Ji-hoon seems intent on emulating the special laugh Jaime Lorente used to differentiate the character. And Denver and Berlin have a bigger point of madness in their Spanish versions thanks to interpretations by Lorente and Pedro Alonso (Korean Berlin is Park Hae-soo, Cho Sang-woo in the squid game). Arturito is just as despicable in both versions. And policeman Seon Woojin (played by Yunjin Kim, Sun in lost) has a similar character as Raquel Murillo (Itziar Ituño), although her ex-husband is a politician and not a police officer whom she reports for abuse like in the original version. Mind you, the professor keeps his glasses.

Park Hae-soo is Berlin in the Korean version of The Paper House.
Park Hae-soo is Berlin in the Korean version of The Paper House.Jung Jaegu/Netflix

point of view and voice out

The two series will initially focus on Tokyo, and it will be his voice that guides the viewer. This off-screen narration is more present in the Spanish version than in the Korean, allowing the adaptation to eliminate the over-explaining of the original. The Asian also spends more minutes situating the character of Tokyo and narrating her past while uncovering the historical, political and socio-economic context in which this takes place. In this way, the action in the Spanish version takes less time to start: in minute 3, Tokyo has already met the professor; in Korean you have to wait until minute 11.


socio-political framework

The context in which the story unfolds is more relevant in the Korean series than in the Spanish one, which gave more presence to political and social discontent as the storyline progressed. The new version relies on dystopia and begins its storyline in 2025, only to jump forward almost a year with the storyline set to take place in 2026. The war between the two will end and an economic community and single currency will be created. They are testing their cooperation with a Joint Economic Zone (ZEC) located in the former Joint Security Zone. The Unified Korea Mint is located there. The new situation will lead to large-scale migration from north to south and, over time, will increase social discontent and accentuate the social divide: the rich are still richer and the poor are still poorer.

Kim Yunjin, the South Korean police officer Seon Woojin in the first episode of Money Heist: Korea.
Kim Yunjin, the South Korean police officer Seon Woojin in the first episode of Money Heist: Korea.Jung Jaegu/Netflix

Cops from the north, cops from the south

This fictional political situation is reflected in the relationship between the police groups responsible for the crisis. The Koreas form a team with an equal number of North and South personnel. The South Korean leader will be a negotiating expert while the North Korean official is determined to invade by force. “You will see how a country that respects human rights deals with such situations,” she tells him. The agents rush to settle matters as an economic summit crucial to the union’s future is imminent. In the original, there is also tension between police officers, but the reason for the argument between Raquel Murillo and Colonel Prieto is more personal than political.

More humor and sex in Spanish

The differences in tone of the series are defined not only by the historical and political context, but also by the character and culture of each country. The first chapter of Spanish is packed with the black, almost Tarantine humor that was one of its trademarks, with Berlin, Denver and Nairobi as standard-bearers. The Korean goes for a darker tone, very prominent in the first 10 minutes, with neon lights, rain and violence and a Tokyo that’s no joke. Also of note is the lack of sexual scenes in the Korean film, unlike the several included in the original: Tokyo and Rio, Alison Parker and a partner…

From left: Park Hae-soo as Berlin, Jang Yoon-ju as Nairobi, Yoo Ji-tae as Professor, Kim Ji-hun as Denver and Lee Won-jong as Moscow in Money Heist: Korea.
From left: Park Hae-soo as Berlin, Jang Yoon-ju as Nairobi, Yoo Ji-tae as Professor, Kim Ji-hun as Denver and Lee Won-jong as Moscow in Money Heist: Korea.Jung Jaegu/Netflix

Personal relationships

One of the strengths of the Spanish series was the combination of action and emotion through the relationships between the characters. The first episode of each version is very different in this regard. While there are several moments in Spanish that involve conversations between characters about personal matters and allusions to the connections between them, the Korean focuses more on the plot, perhaps to reclaim the 10 extra minutes it devotes to Tokyo’s past .

aesthetics and music

Another hallmark of The money heist It’s your aesthetic bet. The red of the monkeys remains. Also the robber mask, although the Spanish one was inspired by Dalí and the Korean one refers to the Hahoetal masks from their traditional culture. The predominant gray in the set also continues, although the Asian series emphasizes contrasts in light and color, enhancing natural and artificial light sources and horizontal flashes in the dark. The series pays a lot of attention to its music, which is also heavily represented in the Korean version, but the Spanish version emphasizes the action scenes and the emotions of the characters more with the music.

From left: Jun Jong-seo as Tokyo, Lee Hyun-woo as Rio, Jang Yoon-ju as Nairobi, Park Hae-soo as Berlin, Lee Won-jong as Moscow, and Kim Ji-hun as Denver in The House.  Paper: Korea”.
From left: Jun Jong-seo as Tokyo, Lee Hyun-woo as Rio, Jang Yoon-ju as Nairobi, Park Hae-soo as Berlin, Lee Won-jong as Moscow, and Kim Ji-hun as Denver in The House. Paper: Korea”.Jung Jaegu/Netflix

Origin of the relationship between the professor and the police

While Raquel Murillo meets the professor in a cafeteria when the coup is already underway, the relationship comes from behind in the Korean version right at the end of the chapter. When her North Korean counterpart decides to invade the building, she retires to dinner. Across from the cafeteria bar is the professor he’s been seeing occasionally for the past two months. In the Spanish version, Raquel Murillo and the professor are customers of the cafeteria and they meet when he offers her his cell phone to make a few calls.

The wink of the Koreans to the Spaniards

Bella Ciao Cafe

Finally, and since we are talking about changing the origins of the relationship between the professor and the police in charge of the operation, towards the end of the first chapter of the Korean version, the camera briefly shows the door of the compound where the professor is running and where the mastermind of the Putsches has its base of operations: Café Bella Ciao.

Conclusion: Worth seeing?

Judging only the first chapter, it’s difficult to judge. Efforts to innovate are particularly noticeable in the political, socio-economic and cultural environment. The series is recommended for those fans of the original who want to play to spot the differences and see if they take different paths at some point in the journey. Is that enough to see, given the vast supply of original stories available to us today? That decision is up to everyone. Of course, for those who haven’t seen the Spanish, there’s nothing better than going to the original.

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