‘The Paper House: Korea‘ has become the new success (not too surprising, on the other hand) of Netflix. Although it is still early to see how it is positioned in the Top Global of the last week (since it was released only a few days ago, and where by the way, ‘ The Squid Game ‘ still appears in the lists ), in Spain, it already appears in the Top 10 of the most-watched series. The move, which was obvious and opportunistic, is working for the platform.
The original hit. ‘La casa de Papel in the Spanish version is one of Netflix’s most significant successes, despite its checkered history. It was created by Álex Pina for Atresmedia, which premiered it on Antena 3 in 2017, which premiered in 15 episodes divided into two parts, and with a success with viewers that the network considered insufficient to prolong such an expensive series: after a powerful start with 4 million viewers (dragging those of the Champions League semi-final), lost a million in its second episode, and ended up dropping to less than two million.
Netflix acquired the rights and repackaged the episodes, turning the nine 70-minute originals that same year into 13 more standard-length episodes. A few months later, in April 2018, the second part premiered. The result was spectacular: the first part had been the most-watched non-English speaking series in the history of the platform. The rest is history: renewal for a third part, which arrived in 2019, already exclusive to Netflix, and the story continues until December 2021, when the fifth and final part was released.
The effect of fame. The series, after its conclusion, gave up its position as the most-watched non-English speaking series in the history of the platform to ‘The Squid Game’ (which is also the most-watched in general, beyond languages), but ‘The paper house’ remains second in the non-English speaking top. In other words, we are facing two of the most viewed products in the history of the platform. Normally, they ended up meeting somehow.
Among the effects of the success of ‘La casa de Papel is a spin-off about Berlin, played by Pedro Alonso, which will arrive in 2023. But before that, Netflix released the first of the international versions it has planned based on the creation of Alex Pina. And of course, the first one is set in Korea, which tells us a lot about the creative state of international fiction. The first is a franchise. Second, not looking exclusively at the United States, but at areas like Korea or India.
In other words, one of Netflix’s main commercial assets (and one that the platform will also surely try to prolong as much as possible once its inevitable conclusion arrives) may be ‘Stranger Things’, an American series to the two hundred percent, with purely Anglo-Saxon aesthetics, language, and references (that is, global). But in a matter of figures, a Spanish and a Korean series surpass it. That is why they have found a mathematical point in common in this new ‘The paper house: Korea’.
The approach of ‘The paper house: Korea’
Seeking differentiation from the Spanish original, the Korean version of the series delves into a starting point typical of a science fiction uchrony: South Korea and North Korea open their borders and merge into a single country. The government and the currency are unified, which greatly benefits the rich and powerful. From here, a new perfect robbery starts, also led by an enigmatic new Professor.
This Korean version makes a decision that distances it from the Spanish one: it doesn’t always stay by the robbers’ side, favoring a more diverse vision and losing some of the claustrophobic atmospheres of the original along the way. The result is a series with a load of social criticism slightly more accentuated than the Spanish one, in the usual allegorical style in Korean cinema, and also with a less naive tone than the white Robin Hood-style revolution proposed by the homeland version.
The result will not necessarily satisfy fans of the original, since it is telling the same story again, with characters as peculiar as Arturito in the Korean version, which reinforces the impression that we are dealing with a clone without many novelties. But the question is whether the proposal has enough commercial strength, and there is no doubt about that: with the fame of ‘The Squid Game’ and the rest of the successful Korean series on Netflix and the original ‘Money Heist’ underpinning it, it could not be otherwise.