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Iljimae poster.jpg
Promotional poster for Iljimae
Also known as Iljimae: The Phantom Thief
Genre Period drama, Action, Romance
Based on Iljimae 
by Ko Woo-young
Written by Choi Ran
Directed by Lee Yong-suk
Starring Lee Joon-gi
Han Hyo-joo
Lee Young-ah
Park Si-hoo
Country of origin South Korea
Original language(s) Korean
No. of episodes 20
Producer(s) Lee Yong-suk
Location(s) Korea
Running time Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:55 (KST)
Production company(s) Chorokbaem Media
Original channel Seoul Broadcasting System
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
Original run 21 May 2008 (2008-05-21) – 24 July 2008 (2008-07-24)
Preceded by On Air
Followed by Working Mom
Related shows The Return of Iljimae
The Vigilantes in Masks
External links
Korean name
Hangul 일지매
Revised Romanization Il Ji-mae
McCune–Reischauer Il Chi-mae

Iljimae (Hangul: 일지매; hanja: 一枝梅; RR: Iljimae; literally "One blossom branch") is a 2008 South Korean period-action television series, starring Lee Joon-gi in the title role of Iljimae, Han Hyo-joo, Lee Young-ah and Park Si-hoo.[1] It is loosely based on the comic strip Iljimae, published between 1975 and 1977, written by Ko Woo-young based on Chinese folklore from the Ming dynasty about a masked Robin Hood-esque character during the Joseon era.[2]

It was directed by Lee Yong-suk,[3] and produced by Chorokbaem Media.[4] It aired on SBS from May 21 to July 24, 2008 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:55 for 20 episodes.


There have been several versions of this story, which first appeared in two Ming dynasty novels, including a 1994 Hong Kong film, a 2005 TVB series and a 2011 Chinese television series, called The Vigilantes In Masks.

MBC bought the rights to the comic strip for their adaptation, hence the SBS version features an original storyline. Lee is the second Korean actor to play the hero following Jang Dong-gun in 1993 and followed by Jung Il-woo for MBC's The Return of Iljimae in 2009.[5]


Lee Gyeom (Lee Joon-gi) is the son of a virtuous nobleman Lee Won-ho, a trustworthy supporter and brother to the king and a central member of the secret organization Cheonwoohoe, composed of important nobles and with the king as their leader. He lives peacefully in a house with many plum trees with his wife, daughter, and son. However, the king has a conversation with a blind fortunes teller. Looking at Lee Won-ho's home, the blind man states that he sees a person who is as bright as the sun, and will be adored by the people. The king kills Lee Won-ho as he believes that 'two suns cannot exist on the same sky'. Gyeom witnesses the incident from the inside of a safe where his father hid him. Later, he is saved and adopted by a retired thief, Swe Dol, after he becomes stricken with amnesia due to the shock of losing his father and being forced to throw a rock at his mother's head to prove that he was not the son. 13 years later, Gyeom, now called Yong, starts to regain his memories and begins to search for his older sister, Yeon, only to see her being sentenced and hanged.

The murder of his older sister leaves Gyeom seeking revenge. With the emblem on the killer's sword he remembers from 13 years ago his only clue, he swears that he will find the one who killed his father and murdered his older sister. To find the sword and its owner, he disguises himself as Iljimae and breaks into the nobles' estates.[Iljimae is a mysterious, black-swathed thief who robs corrupt government officials and gives to the poor. He steals not only material treasures but also people, be they wrongfully held prisoners or criminals hiding from judgment. At the scene of each robbery, he leaves a small painting of a branch of red plum blossoms called a "mae hwa". (His name reflects this act: il means "one", ji means "branch" and mae means "plum tree".) The citizens support Iljimae while the king and the nobility try to catch him and find his identity.] During the course of his actions, he winds up fighting not only for himself, but also for the people; and so he becomes a fighter for the common people, jumping into action whenever the people are oppressed and wrongly exploited for the sake of the nobles, thus becoming adored by the people and one villager goes far enough to state "He is our sun!". At the core of his motives though, he still desires to find the person who destroyed his family, and bring justice to them.


Main characters[edit]

  • Lee Joon-gi as Gyeom/Yong/Iljimae - A no-good, lazy gangster by day but a mysterious thief who protects the citizens when the night comes.
  • Han Hyo-joo as Eun Chae - A lovely and kind girl of noble birth who seems to be fated both for and against Gyeom.
  • Lee Young-ah as Bong Soon - A funny, silly swindler who was orphaned as a girl and also is connected to Gyeom's past.
  • Park Si-hoo as Cha Dol/Shi Hoo - Once a poor boy, he was told at the age of nine that his father was actually his adopted father. He is sent to his "real father", Magistrate Byun Shik, and becomes Eun Chae's half-brother and an Imperial Guard. However, Magistrate Byun Shik is not his real father. He and Iljimae have the same real birth father, Lee Won Ho. His dream is to catch Iljimae so that he can finally become a nobleman.

Supporting characters[edit]


Original broadcast date Episode # Average audience share
TNmS Ratings[6] AGB Nielsen[7]
Nationwide Seoul National Capital Area Nationwide Seoul National Capital Area
21 May 2008 1 14.8% 15.4% 15.5% 17.0%
22 May 2008 2 17.6% 17.8% 17.7% 18.4%
28 May 2008 3 19.0% 19.1% 17.1% 18.0%
29 May 2008 4 18.9% 18.9% 19.9% 20.3%
4 June 2008 5 19.3% 20.5% 18.6% 17.9%
5 June 2008 6 18.6% 18.4% 19.6% 18.6%
11 June 2008 7 20.5% 20.7% 20.0% 19.5%
12 June 2008 8 23.0% 23.3% 20.9% 21.0%
18 June 2008 9 24.6% 25.0% 22.4% 22.8%
19 June 2008 10 23.1% 22.4% 21.7% 21.6%
25 June 2008 11 22.6% 22.6% 20.7% 20.3%
26 June 2008 12 24.6% 24.0% 24.1% 23.9%
2 July 2008 13 25.3% 25.0% 22.0% 21.5%
3 July 2008 14 25.4% 24.6% 22.2% 21.4%
9 July 2008 15 26.0% 26.1% 23.0% 23.4%
10 July 2008 16 27.6% 28.2% 24.4% 24.3%
16 July 2008 17 28.0% 29.3% 24.0% 23.6%
17 July 2008 18 27.8% 28.1% 24.2% 24.0%
23 July 2008 19 27.1% 26.8% 25.0% 25.1%
24 July 2008 20 31.0% 31.4% 27.9% 28.4%
Average 23.2% 23.4%

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient Result
SBS Drama Awards
Top Excellence Award, Actor Lee Joon-gi Won
Excellence Award, Actress in a Drama Special Lee Young-ah Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Special Ahn Gil-kang Nominated
Lee Moon-sik Won
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Special Kim Sung-ryung Nominated
New Star Award Han Hyo-joo Won
Best Young Actor Yeo Jin-goo Won
Top 10 Stars Lee Joon-gi Won
Netizen Popularity Award Lee Joon-gi Won
Friendship Award Do Ki-seok Won
45th Baeksang Arts Awards
Best Actor (TV) Lee Joon-gi Nominated

International broadcast[edit]

So-net TV began broadcasting the series in Japan on November 24, 2008.[8] Reruns aired on terrestrial channel TV Tokyo from June 15 to August 24, 2009,[9] and Mnet Japan starting August 25, 2009.[10]


  1. ^ "From Pretty Boy to Action Star: Lee Jun-ki Changes Shape". The Chosun Ilbo. 4 July 2008. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  2. ^ "Young Star Jung il-woo Returns With Iljimae". The Korea Times. 2009-01-13. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  3. ^ Lee, In-kyung (2 February 2012). "SBS Is About to Bring Out the Aces, Jang Dong Gun and Zo In Sung". enewsWorld. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  4. ^ Oh, Jean (19 November 2012). "Historical fantasies a passing fancy?". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  5. ^ Garcia, Cathy Rose A. (11 July 2008). "Retrospective on Comic Artist Ko Woo-young". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  6. ^ "TNMS Daily Ratings: this links to current day-select the date from drop down menu". TNMS Ratings (in Korean). Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  7. ^ "AGB Daily Ratings: this links to current day-select the date from drop down menu". AGB Nielsen Media Research (in Korean). Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  8. ^ "Iljimae to Air in Japan Starting November". KBS Global. 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2014-10-27. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Min, Ines (13 July 2009). "Actor Lee Jun-ki in Japanese Spotlight". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 

External links[edit]