«My Berlin is a fragile man who knows he has to use fear to win over people»
Interview with Park Hae-soo, who plays the second-in-command in the gang of Money Heist: Korea - Joint Economic Area
There are those who call it a remake, those who are already screaming for shameless copying, and those who, on the other hand, after enjoying the first episode available today on Netflix, can immediately grasp the political and social nuances that Money Heist: Korea - Joint Economic Area offers its viewers.
The undisputed protagonists are undoubtedly Berlin, the hard core of the Money Heist gang's resistance and the Professor's second in command. Played by Park Hae-soo, born in 1981 and already one of the faces involved in the success of Squid Game, his character offers perhaps one of the most soul-deepening views of Korean society. There is something both inherently painful and cruel about Park Hae-soo's Berlin. On his face, in the eight episodes that compose the show, we learn to read, slowly but relentlessly, all the pain caused by the division of a Country and those who for one reason or another have had to pay for its cruel consequences. Park Hae-soo, whose acting skills are undisputed has starred in some of Korea's most memorable titles, such as Prison Playbook, The Legend of the Blue Sea, and Memories of the Alahambra. After dressing as Player 218 in Squid Game and contributing to its interplanetary success, the Screen Actors Guild Award-nominated actor plays one of the most beloved and hated characters the same time in Money Heist.
The Korean Berlin has a history under his belt that leaves no room for self-pity. It is in one of the dialogues with the Professor, the mastermind behind the big hit, that we discover the true essence of Berlin: "Where there is a light, there always comes a shadow. And that's the role I play, so you can shine," he comments without emotion. In the story, we learn that Berlin, whose real name is Song Jun-ho, to escape North Korea with his mother tried to swim across the Amrok River, which stakes out the border between China and North Korea. During the night of the escape, the two were caught, his mother was brutally killed in the river, and he was deported to the Kaechon forced labor camp, famous because "no one got out alive." After years of beatings and violence, thanks to a small internal revolution, Song Jun-ho manages to escape, leaving behind a trail of blood and uttering the words that weigh like lead: "maybe I will miss the smell of this place".
Panorama interviewed Park Hae-soo before the international release Money Heist: Korea - Joint Economic Area.
Let's start with a straightforward question: who is your Berlin?
I played the role of Berlin in Money Heist: Korea - Joint Economic Area. Berlin is an escapee from the North Korean concentration camp, he was there for quite a long time so he holds a lot of personal tragedy, and a long personal history of hurtfulness, so he tries to use fear and control to stand out over the hostages so he’s kinda like the villain.
The whole series is based on a question: “who are really the bad guys?”. Which side do you think your character lay? Good or bad?
I think whether one is good or evil really depends on what values they have in their way of achieving their goals. For Berlin, in order to achieve his goal, he sometimes makes ruthless and fearless decisions to control the people and I think we need to really think about whether he is good or evil because me, myself, I don’t have a clear answer as to if he is good or bad, I wouldn’t want to say that he is bad, I would want to say that he had to make certain decisions because of the way he was grown up and these various conditions and situations that he had to endure through and that made him make those decisions, so I think it’s really hard to say that he’s either good or bad because he’s such a four-dimensional character. I think the series would be thought of as a good series if it provides some food for thought for people to think about who really is good and who really is evil.
The story starts with the reunification of the Country. Still, you split the hostages into North and South in a cruel mind game. Why do you think Berlin did that?
If I look back on how Berlin lived his life, he’s spent 25 years in a concentration camp in Korea, he was always under the control of the concentration camp’s organizers and I think he learned that the easiest way to control people is to create fears in them, and in order to achieve his goal, he knew that he had to be controlling and to create fear and conflict within people in order for him to govern them, I think that is why he had to divide people.
You traded a green tracksuit for a red jumpsuit. In Money Heist, your character Berlin is the most researched man in Korea and he is described as someone able to give chills to people but that soon loses the respect of his group. In Squid Game, you were a good man who chose the wrong path in life, and once in the arena, became ruthless, was hated by the group, and decided to die as a villain and not redeem himself. Are there any similarities between the two characters? Do you feel they are connected in some kind of way?
Yes, I think they are similar in the general aspect that they try to hide the fragile side of themselves. For example Sangwoo in Squid Game, he’s under a lot of stress but he still needs to show people that he has succeeded because he’s from a prestigious college and everything, and Berlin in Money Heist has a lot of traumatic experiences and is hurt inside but he tries to hide his trauma with that fearfulness and also he talks in a very gentleman-like manner to hide his trauma, so I think that duality in both of the character is something that they have in common. And they only wear one piece of clothing for the whole series and they both like to really suit up.
You worked in many productions and played a lot of different characters; which one would you like to be remembered for and why?Thank you for the very good question, I think I really have to ponder on this question. First of all, I think people will remember me a lot as Sangwoo in Squid Game but I hope that people will further remember me as the character that I’ll play going forward. Later on, sometime in my life, if I could play a role in a very good movie like Roberto Benigni’s movie, then I think I will be remembered by a lot of people and that would be a dream for me.
If you could describe Money Heist Korea in one word, which would it be?