Netflix’s “Narco-Saints” is a South Korean crime series created by Yoon Jong-bin and Kwon Sung-Hui. The drama follows the life of Kang In-Gu, an ordinary businessman who travels to the South American nation of Suriname to make a living from fishing.
However, he finds himself trapped in a dangerous scheme to capture a dangerous drug cartel boss. The thrilling series takes viewers behind the workings of a drug cartel. Therefore, viewers must wonder if real events inspire the series.
Well, “Narco-Saints” is based on a true story. The series is adapted for television by Yoon Jong-bin and Kwon Sung-Hui and is based on the life of a real drug lord Jo Bong-Haeing. The drug lord operated in the South American country of Suriname.
He smuggled drugs from South America to European countries using Koreans as transporters. Although not much is known about Jo’s early life, he was forced to flee South Korea in 1994 after being wanted for fraud.
Jo is said to have established a drug trafficking and supply channel in the 1990s. Between 2004 and 2005, Jo smuggled approximately 48.5 kilograms of cocaine into European countries. The package is estimated at at least 160 billion won (138 million euros).
Jo hired several Koreans to act as transporters to smuggle drugs and paid them 4-5 million won for each trip. Law enforcement arrested Jo in 2009 in Brazil. He was deported to South Korea and charged with smuggling cocaine from South America to Europe using Koreans as carriers in 2011.
In an interview, co-creator Yoon Jong-bin opened up about the conceptualization of the series. Yoon revealed that he first approached to make a movie about the real drug lord in Suriname. However, after realizing that the story is difficult to tell in a two-hour movie, he decided to make a six-part television story based on the true story.
As the series opens with text claiming that true events inspire the narrative, a disclaimer follows. It indicates that the story, although inspired by real events, is heavily dramatized and that the names and details of certain characters have been fictionalized. For example, the show’s version of Jo Bong-Haeing is called Jeon Yo-hwan.
Additionally, it is unclear if the real drug lord posed as a pastor and ran his drug cartel and smuggling operations against the facade of religion. Similarly, there are no reports of a South Korean businessman working undercover with NICS to capture the drug lord.
Therefore, it is likely that Kang In-gu’s character in the series is a fictional construct. Additionally, the series’ focus on cultural representation makes it similar to other Netflix crime dramas about drug cartels, such as “Narcos” and “Narcos: Mexico.”
Ultimately, “Narco-Saints” is based on real events, as claimed by its co-creators and the opening credits. However, the creators probably added various fictional elements to the story to make it more engaging.
Nonetheless, the premise of a South Korean businessman venturing into a dangerous global cartel to bring down its kingpin is rooted in reality through emotional storytelling and dramatic moments. Therefore, viewers will be shocked and entertained by the careful concoction of fiction and reality.
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