The first information arrived in June 2020 and they sounded like a strange dream product of the prevailing virus: in Korea they wanted to do a ‘remake’ of ‘The paper house’. When, in December of the same year, Netflix confirmed the project, some waved national pride and others wondered why such a successful series around the world, including in South Korea, was remade so quickly. In a way, we are talking about a ‘mash-up’ of the two most popular non-English-speaking titles on the platform: ‘The paper house’ through ‘The squid game’whose Player 218, Park Hae Sooappears here as the also malicious Berlin.
The question now is whether this intriguing remix, which opens on friday, you can attract the audience of the original or win over the still unconvinced. The general structure of the plot is identical. The characters do not mutate excessively. What changes the most is the geopolitical background: in the near future, the two Koreas are heading towards unification and the JSA or joint security area has given rise to the ZEC or Joint Economic Zonean essay on cooperation that houses, among other emblematic facilities, the Unified Korea Mint.
That is the ‘paper house’ studied by the elusive Professor (Yoo Ji-tae, the villain from ‘Old boy’) to pull off the heist of the century with the help of brilliant pawns, all with the same abilities and city names as in the original. The distribution imposes enough. In addition to Park Hae-soo and Yoo Ji-tae, the presence of Jeon Jong-seo (femme fatale from ‘Burning’) as Tokyo, a North Korean soldier turned thief by capitalism (who only steals from those who take advantage of immigrants).
The gap between rich and poor
Park Hae-soo does not speak English or Spanish fluently (we talked through an interpreter), but at the beginning of the interview he says clearly: “I love Pedro Alonso”. And in the same way, as he explained to us later through a video call, he loves the character of Berlin, “essentially because of his constant duality: on the outside he seems very tough and is capable of controlling people, but it is easy to understand that he hides a lot of tragedy inside”.
Having shot ‘The Squid Game’ was both an advantage and a problem for Park. For one thing, he “was already used to spending a lot of time in the same clothes in a limited space.” For another, that red jumpsuit brought him crude flashbacks of certain pink uniforms: “I was a little traumatized at first, but at least I was the one wearing the jumpsuit”. Dalí’s masks have been replaced by traditional Hahoe masks with a not entirely reliable smile.
As in the Spanish version, the viewer wants to see the success of some thieves who don’t really rob anyone and who have been too poor up to now. “Unfortunately, this idea of economic injustice, of the growing gap between rich and poor, is something that people around the world can relate to. In Korea, in particular, it is a serious problem, as seen in ‘The game of the squid’ and how we couldn’t stop remarking here”.
South Korean ‘soft power’
In ‘The paper house: Korea’, the renewed geopolitical landscape creates extra layers of conflict, mistrust and disharmony. South Koreans and North Koreans are forced to work, not without friction, in the police unit that should unseat the thieves. The Korean version of inspector Raquel Murillo does not clash with a CNI colonel: Seon Woo-jin (kim yunjinthe Sun from ‘Lost’) faces Captain Cha Moo-hyuk (Kim Sung Ohseen in ‘The Man Without a Past’), a strict guy from North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Security.
Kim says of Itziar Ituño, her predecessor, whose name she pronounces perfectly, that “she was incredible in the series”; for her, among other reasons, she chained the first two seasons in a binge only interrupted to sleep (“a couple of hours”). She watched the series in America, where she moved in with her family as a child, but she remembers that in Korea people have “eaten” her too.
At the same time, more and more audiences around the world devour Korean pop culture, something that fills Kim with pride. The government of his country has never had more resources to develop the so-called ‘soft power’ that arises from cultural influence abroad. “Who would have thought?” Kim says. “I grew up not seeing Asian faces on TV. When I got into ‘Lost,’ an ABC publicist told me that this was the first American series with two Asian actors as series regulars. And it was true. Now, Seoul is the coolest place in the world. I love that this moment has come. Almost all my movies are Korean, starting with ‘Shiri’, in which she was a North Korean spy who fell in love with her enemy [ríe]. We have always had very attractive movies and series. Finally the rest of the world has taken notice.”