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Go away with ... Park Hae-soo and Yoo Ji-tae of 'Money Heist: Korea - Joint Economic Area'

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“Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area” – the Korean adaptation of the hit Spanish series “La Casa de Papel” – will premiere June 24 on Netflix, which will drop the entire six-episode first season. Last week, Yoo Ji-tae – who portrays the mastermind of a group of thieves – and “Squid Game” star Park Hae-soo – who plays the gang’s charming but deadly leader – participated in this interview from Seoul and Los Angeles, respectively.

Q: Hae-soo, you portray Berlin in this show. If you were to give yourself a city nickname, what would it be?

PARK HAE-SOO: I am currently so immersed in my character Berlin that I can’t think of any other cities but Berlin.

Q: Have you ever been to Berlin?

PARK HAE-SOO: I've been to Germany once. I visited Berlin when my film “Time to Hunt” was invited to the Berlin Film Festival in 2020. Despite the stay being brief, I strongly remember the city being so inspirational. The people there were so friendly and I felt like the city was the home of art. I was strolling by the Spree river and there was this person playing the saxophone so beautifully that I had to stop and listen.

Q: Where are some places you’ve filmed at?

PARK HAE-SOO: I’ve filmed on location in Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan and the Dominican Republic. Each has its own character and charm. The sunlight is also different for each place so I loved that diversity. Of course, I also loved drinking local beers! The most recent filming location was the Dominican Republic (for the upcoming Netflix series “The Accidental Narco”). I heard it’s a vacation spot for the people in the States – kind of like Jeju Island for the Korean folks. It was a beautiful island with vibrant ocean colors and lovely sunlight, so I definitely enjoyed filming there.

Q: Unlike the United States, South Korea is a homogeneous country. How have your travels influenced how you view the world?

YOO JI-TAE: One of the most valuable outcomes of traveling to various places as an actor is that the experiences have helped to dismantle my prejudices and biases.

Q: Can you expound on that a bit more?

YOO JI-TAE: Having done projects in various countries with people from different backgrounds, I learned that the universal human emotions are key. I’m grateful that I’ve been working as an actor for 25 years. In 1995, when I was still in college, there was a surge in Korean immigration to the United States with the term American Dream being a common catchphrase. I directed a short film that captures many of the issues I grappled with in college and titled it “Korean Dream.” At the time, I was convinced that Korea had the power, drive and energy to create stories that would resonate with the world and that someday Korea would draw the attention of the world. I think that now more than ever, we are witnessing the Korean Dream coming true. An extensive range of Korean cultural content has been recognized at the Academy Awards, as well as the Cannes, Berlin and Venice Film Festivals – on top of many K-pop bands sharing their unique artistic expression and communicating with their fans in Korean.

Q: Where are some places you’ve traveled that have stood out?

PARK HAE-SOO: Definitely Los Angeles. Since the release of “Squid Game,” I’ve had some new and wonderful experiences in L.A. and met lots of great people. I’ve been to L.A. four times already. I’d love to visit other countries, too, to have more wonderful experiences going forward.

Q: Ji-tae, what attracted you to the role of the Professor?

YOO JI-TAE: I enjoyed the portrayal of Professor as a villain, but someone who has genuine feelings in the original series. But I admit that the massive global fandom around the original series did place some pressure on me.

Q: Hae-soo, why did you want to play Berlin?

PARK HAE-SOO: I was a big fan of “La Casa de Papel” and I knew that the wonderful creators of Korea would team up to add a fun twist to the series. I also wanted to challenge myself by trying to portray the layers of charm Berlin has. I feel catharsis when conveying the duality a character holds. What’s funny is “Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area” required me to shoot the whole show in just one set of attire and in a confined space, (just as I did in) “Prison Playbook” and “Squid Game.”

(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow “Go Away With…” on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)

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