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'Narco-Saints' is crime-thriller about civilian undercover agent: director

15:18 September 07, 2022

By Kim Boram

SEOUL, Sept. 7 (Yonhap) -- The director of the upcoming Korean-language Netflix original "Narco-Saints" said Wednesday that it tells an unprecedentedly enthralling story about an untrained citizen who takes undercover missions to capture a drug kingpin in a South American country.

"I've looked for a film or a TV series covering a civilian working undercover, but failed to find one," Yoon Jong-bin, who helmed the six-part Netflix series, said in a press conference in Seoul. "The key point is that an ordinary businessman who has no experience of specialized training survives life-threatening situations only with the talent of accommodating himself to the circumstances."

This image provided by Netflix shows a scene in "Narco-Saints." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Based on a true story, the series follows an ordinary businessman named Kang In-gu (Ha Jung-woo), who is forced to join a secret mission tasked by the National Intelligence Service while being involved in a drug-related plot conspired by Jeon Yo-hwan (Hwang Jung-min), a Korean drug lord in Suriname disguised as a Christian pastor.

The director said he was so impressed by the real-life story about a drug ruler named Cho Bong-haeng, who ran a major drug-smuggling ring in Suriname and was arrested in Brazil in 2009 by the Korean spy agency in collaboration with a businessman in Suriname.

"I was so interested in this story. When I first read the script for a two-hour film, I thought it missed too many interesting episodes and ideas," he said. "So I wanted to tell this tale in a longer rhythm and joined hands with Netflix."

This image provided by Netflix shows a scene in "Narco-Saints." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"Narco-Saints" is the first TV series by Yoon, who is well-known for many South Korean box-office hit films, including the espionage thriller "The Spy Gone North" (2018) and the historical action movie "Kundo: Age of Rampant" (2014).

He said it was hard for a veteran filmmaker to adjust to the tight shooting schedule of a longer TV series and make cliffhanger endings to keep the audience hooked for the next episode.

"I had to shoot a six-hour series under the similar time limit with a film. That's huge pressure," he said. "And I spent a lot of time focusing on the last scenes of each episode to maintain the tension."

In this photo provided by Netflix, the cast of "Narco--Saints" poses for a photo during a press conference in Seoul on Sept. 7, 2022. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Actor Ha Jung-woo, who has written and directed two films, "Fasten Your Seatbelt" (2013) and "Chronicle of a Blood Merchant" (2015), played a role in encouraging director Yoon to work on this project about seven years ago.

"I thought the true story about the Suriname drug lord is worth dramatizing. It's so dramatic," he said. "It is so impressive and interesting that I thought it would be adapted into a film someday in the future."

"Narco-Saints" will be available on Netflix this Friday.



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