Damo (TV series)

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Promotional poster for Damo
Also known as
  • The Legendary Police Woman
  • Female Detective Damo
  • Damo: The Undercover Lady Detective
  • Damo, the Detective in Chosun
Written by Jung Hyung-soo
Directed by Lee Jae-kyoo
Country of origin South Korea
Original language(s) Korean
No. of episodes 14
Executive producer(s) Jo Joong-hyun
Original network Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation
Original release July 28 (2003-07-28) – September 9, 2003 (2003-09-09)
External links
Website www.imbc.com/broad/tv/drama/damo
Hangul 조선 여형사 다모
Hanja 朝鮮 女刑事 茶母
Revised Romanization Joseon Yeohyeongsa Damo
McCune–Reischauer Chosŏn Yŏhyŏngsa Tamo

Damo (Hangul조선 여형사 다모; RRJoseon Yeohyeongsa Damo; lit. "Female Detective Damo in the Joseon Dynasty"; also known as The Legendary Police Woman) is a 2003 South Korean fusion historical drama, starring Ha Ji-won, Lee Seo-jin, and Kim Min-joon. Set in the Joseon Dynasty, it tells the story of Chae-ok, a damo relegated to the low-status job of a female police detective who investigates crimes involving women of the upper class. It aired on MBC from July 28 to September 9, 2003 on Mondays and Tuesdays at 21:55 for 14 episodes.


Chae-ok is the daughter of a nobleman, who was framed for conspiracy and thereafter committed suicide. She got separated from her brother at the age of 7 when she was caught by the officer who then took her to be the slave of Hwangbo Yoon's family. Alongside him, she was raised in the mountains and learned martial arts and sword fighting. She has loved Yoon silently for years, knowing they cannot be together because he belongs to a higher social class. Instead when he becomes a police commander, she joins his bureau as a damo to continue being near him and working with him.

When Chae-ok goes undercover while investigating a counterfeiting ring, she meets the rebel leader Jang Sung-baek. She must try to arrest Sung-baek, but despite her bravery and resolve, she finds herself falling for him.


Intelligent, virtually unbeatable and a great asset to the law enforcement establishment. Straightforward and honest, she cannot stand other people's lies and dirty deeds.
Born to a nobleman and his concubine, Hwangbo Yoon feels the loneliness of not belonging to either the noble class or the servant class. His only friend is Chae-ok, whom he loves with all his heart, but his love remains unspoken. Hardworking and diligent, he is quickly promoted through the ranks of the police force, leaving his rivals jealous. As the police commander of the Left Police Bureau, Yoon is loyal to the government, and has a deep, abiding love for his countrymen.
His family was destroyed when his father, a nobleman, was framed for conspiracy. He is adopted by lepers, and after training himself, soon becomes famous for his swordsmanship. Idealistic and passionate, he leads a group of rebels in protest against the Joseon social class system they deem unfair and unjust. When he meets Chae-ok, he must face the choice between love or duty to his cause.

Supporting cast[edit]


  • Damo has a dual meaning. One is literally "tea servant," while the second is the implicit understanding that damos in the Police Bureau were female police detectives.[3] The drama presupposes that all people during the 17th century were aware of this dual meaning.
  • In the Joseon Dynasty, rather than numbering political offices or government divisions with "first," "second," and "third," it was common to use, middle, right, and left. The use of "Left Police Bureau" and "Right Police Bureau" is not indicative of their domains over the city, but merely a numbering system in much the same way Americans have precincts and district numbers.
  • With regards to the character Ma Chook-ji, "Chook-ji" is not his real first name. His real first name is never mentioned in the series. "Chook ji" literally means "compress space," more akin to a nickname like "Quick-foot Ma."


Adapted from Bang Hak-gi's manhwa Damo Nam-soon and with an expensive budget of ₩200 million per episode, Damo took more than a year to complete. It was filmed in Taean County, South Chungcheong Province.[4] To help elevate the quality of the show, 80 percent of the series was pre-produced before airing, a rare occurrence among Korean dramas. It was also the first Korean drama completely shot with HD cameras (previously only used in documentaries). Steering away from traditional historical dramas (in Korean, sageuk; or taiga in Japanese dramas), Damo ushered in the new subgenre "fusion historical drama," with its use of flashy wuxia-style high-wire action, CG, and a soundtrack that combined traditional music with anachronistic modern rock/electronica.[5][6]


The series began with modest ratings (the first episode recorded 14 percent), but it soon began to gain popularity among viewers in their 20s and 30s. Damo was the first Korean drama in the Internet era to reach 1 million posts on the message board of its official website, which caused the site's servers to crash. It eventually passed 4 million posts.[7][8]

Dedicated online fans coined the tongue-in-cheek moniker pyein (a word play on pain), referring to themselves as "crippled by pain" because they spend hours in front of a computer writing comments and discussions about the drama and chatting online with other viewers, to an extent of not being able to lead a normal life. The cast and crew also interacted with these netizens online, to better "read" viewers' reactions. Even long after the series had ended, the Damo pyeins continued to generate content, such as a newsletter called Damo Ilbo written in Joseon-era Korean language, music videos edited by fans themselves, and thousands of drawings related to the show. Online popularity led to revenue, and MBC earned an estimated ₩10 million a day through Internet residual fees. At the end of the drama's last episode, a caption onscreen read "We would like to thank the Damo pyeins."[6] Damo, which had recorded average ratings of more than 20 percent, became mainstream thanks to the huge popularity it enjoyed online, and it turned into a cultural phenomenon, forcing TV networks to thereafter change their approach to ratings, online content, and viewer feedback.[5]

Damo's cast, writer and director were recognized at the year-end MBC Drama Awards, and the 2004 Baeksang Arts Awards.[9][10]


2003 MBC Drama Awards[11]

2004 Baeksang Arts Awards

2004 Asian Television Awards

  • Best Drama Series


  1. ^ Cho, Chung-un (December 11, 2006). "HERALD INTERVIEW: Actor Lee Seo-jin seeks versatility". The Korea Herald via Hancinema. Retrieved April 27, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Actress dies of stomach cancer". The Korea Times. June 4, 2010. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  3. ^ Kim, Hyung-eun (May 5, 2008). "Joseon cops similar to police today". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  4. ^ Chung, Ah-young (November 1, 2007). "Tour to Filming Sets". The Korea Times. Archived from the original on December 14, 2014. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "KOREAN TV DRAMA REVIEWS: 다모 (茶母, Damo)". Twitch Film. February 16, 2006. Archived from the original on January 20, 2008. Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Damo Pyeins Launch Drama To Digital Culture Heights". Ewha Voice. October 1, 2003. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  7. ^ "KOREAN TV DRAMA REVIEWS: 미안하다 사랑한다 (I'm Sorry, I Love You)". Twitch Film. November 18, 2005. Archived from the original on April 14, 2009. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Camera-Phones Voted Best Item of 2003". The Chosun Ilbo. December 17, 2003. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Ask the Zealots for Best Actor and Actress!". The Dong-a Ilbo. December 25, 2003. Retrieved March 18, 2014. 
  10. ^ "TV Dramas - Actresses Line up for Award Ceremony Takeover". The Chosun Ilbo. December 29, 2003. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 
  11. ^ "2003 MBC Drama Awards" (in Korean). iMBC.com. Retrieved April 2, 2013.

External links[edit]