“Payback: Money and Power” was released in 2023, has 12 episodes, and is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. It can be categorized as Legal Drama, Crime, Thriller, and Action.
♦ If You’re Good With Numbers, Work for a Criminal Money Cartel
“Payback: Money and Power” begins with Eun Yong being released from prison. He has not had an easy life and his only family is his sister and her son, his nephew. They welcome him home even though they know he’s been in prison.
Getting a good-paying job is not easy for someone who went to jail. He ends up taking a job as a thug and earns enough money to move his sister and nephew into a better home.
Eun Yong has a talent for numbers. Not only can he look at numbers and memorize them, but he knows how to keep records, account for, and manage money. He knows the secret codes and other methods criminals use to hide their illegal profits.
The head of a money cartel can use someone with Eun Yong’s talent, so he takes him under his wing. Eun Yong works for the money cartel for a long time, until the boss finds out that he was trying to become self-sufficient and financially independent. What? The goose that lays the golden egg is trying to leave?
The cartel boss decides to steal whatever money Eun Yong had invested and then kill him. Only Eun Yong escapes and plans to get his PAYBACK!! He succeeds in getting his money back, then leaves Korea and lives a peaceful life as a recluse in Mongolia.
♦ If You’re Good With Numbers, Work with Special Investigations
Meanwhile, through persistence and perseverance Eun Yong’s nephew, Jang Tae-Chun, grows up and becomes a prosecutor. One day his nephew receives a delivery, an envelope containing detailed information about illegal dealings, specifically stock market manipulation.
(“Market manipulation is conduct designed to deceive investors by controlling or artificially affecting the price of securities.” Some call it “insider trading” and it’s illegal. Source)
Park Joon-gyeong is a former prosecutor, and now a major and a staff judge advocate in the military. Her mother’s death was written off as a suicide, but she knew that foul play was involved. So she took it upon herself to obtain the evidence and sent the envelope to Jang Tae-Chun, hoping he would be able to investigate.
Why send it to him? Because of the connections.
- Connection 1: Jang Tae-Chun was Eun Yong’s nephew and even though he was a rookie, he was honest and not corrupt, like Hwang Ki-Seok, the chief prosecutor. The chief prosecutor was nicknamed “chef prosecutor” because he cooked up so many crooked schemes.
- Connection 2: Park Joon-gyeong’s mother was Eun Yong’s benefactor. She took him into her home and Eun Yong described her as the first person who treated him like a human being. He was grateful for her kindness, and would not believe she committed suicide.
The numbers are all there but Jang Tae-Chun didn’t understand them. But he knows someone who did. He sent the records to his uncle in Mongolia and Eun Yong was able to “show him the money”.
The results of Jang Tae-Chun’s special investigation were newsworthy. However, as expected, corrupt parties working in the prosecutor’s office tried to cover it up but were unsuccessful. That special investigation was just the beginning. They made certain people with money and power very angry.
Eun Yong returned from Mongolia to Korea to assist Jang Tae-Chun and Park Joon-gyeong in their fight against corruption. But how does one fight those who have money and power? According to Eun Yong:
- Fight money and power with money and power. People need to payback what they owe!
- Eun Yong (played by Lee Sun-Kyun, “Kingmaker”)
- Jang Tae-Chun (played by Kang You-Seok, “Black Knight”)
- Park Joon-gyeong (played by Moon Chae-Won, “Taxi Driver 2”
- Hwang Ki-Seok, Chief Prosecutor (played by Park Hoon, “Designated Survivor: 60 Days”, “Bloodhounds”)
Viewership and Rating:
- IMDb: 7.2 out of 10 stars
- My Drama List: 7.7 out of 10 stars
- Amazon Prime Customer Reviews: 4.8 out of 5 stars
My personal rating is 4.8 out of 5 stars. It’s in line with the viewers who shared their ratings via Amazon. This K-drama series has lots of layers, interesting characters, and complex plot-weaving. Though a work of fiction, it was very close to depicting real-life intricacies and complications of relationships between family and friends (and enemies).
We each make our own choices about the path we will take in our lives. One family member or close friend might choose a life of crime while the other takes the opposite path. It’s fine as long as you don’t cross each other’s path. But when these paths cross, difficult decisions and choices must be made. Do you help each other or hurt each other?
Sometimes we are touched or blessed by a person who treats us like a human being. But that person ends up being unjustly treated. You want justice; but since the justice system failed, you want revenge. That’s why this dialogue in the series made me think:
- ADVICE: “… taking revenge on someone is too risky compared to the reward.”
- COUNTER-ADVICE: “You should always payback what you owe. Don’t weigh your losses but your values.”
“Payback: Money and Power” was added to my watch list because a vlogger thought that it had been underrated and as a result, overlooked. I admit that this series had slipped under my radar. But once I started watching it, I totally understood the vlogger’s sentiment.
LINKS OF INTEREST:
- Amazon K-drama Payback: Money and Power – Parasite’s Lee Sun-kyun on form in spirited crime thriller | South China Morning Post
- 8 Korean Dramas like “Payback: Money and Power” | KdropCart
- 10 Best K-Dramas to Watch on Amazon Prime Video Right Now | Ready Steady Cut
Prime Video Philippines. “Payback Teaser Trailer | Prime Video.” YouTube Video. YouTube, December 23, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYgnLtyNgaQ.