The Great Merchant

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The Great Merchant
Great Merchant-poster.jpg
Promotional poster for The Great Merchant
Also known as Merchant Kim Man-deok
Genre Period drama
Written by Kim Jin-suk
Kang Da-young
Directed by Kang Byung-taek
Kim Sung-yoon
Starring Lee Mi-yeon
Han Jae-suk
Park Sol-mi
Ha Seok-jin
Go Doo-shim
Country of origin South Korea
Original language(s) Korean
No. of episodes 30
Producer(s) Park Ki-ho
Yoo Gun-shik
Location(s) Korea
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time Saturdays and Sundays at 20:40 (KST)
Original network KBS1
Original release 6 March (2010-03-06) – 13 June 2010 (2010-06-13)
Preceded by The Reputable Family
Followed by Legend of the Patriots
External links

The Great Merchant (Hangul거상 김만덕; Hanja巨商金萬德; RRGeosang Gim Mandeok; lit. Merchant Kim Man-deok) is a 2010 South Korean historical drama starring Lee Mi-yeon,[1] Han Jae-suk, Park Sol-mi,[2] Ha Seok-jin, and Go Doo-shim. It aired on KBS1 from March 6 to June 13, 2010 on Saturdays and Sundays at 20:40 for 30 episodes.

The series follows the life of Kim Man-deok (1739-1812). Kim was born on Jeju Island. Adopted by the head of a gisaeng house at the age of 12, she became a government gisaeng ― a type of Korean traditional entertainer who is designated and reserved specifically for government officials. After discovering a talent in business and commerce, she later became one of the most successful female merchants on the island.

When Jeju was struck by a deadly famine in 1795 (the 19th year of King Jeongjo, Kim sold all her assets and donated approximately 90% of her money (approximated to be ₩70 billion in today's currency) to save millions of lives. Kim was later praised by numerous scholars and philosophers, which was notable given her background as a gisaeng and the fact that she saved the people of Jeju Island, a place that was considered a place of exile at the time. Kim's heroic deeds were documented in Jeongjo Sillok ("The Annals of King Jeongjo") in 1796, and was even featured as a folktale called Mandeok-jeon ("The Story of Man-deok").[3][4] In 1978, a memorial was created for Kim Man-deok on Jeju Island, and annually Jeju Island presents the "Man-deok Award" to two outstanding women in philanthropy.[5]

The drama features Kim's life and achievements, along with her ongoing rivalry with fellow merchants during the Joseon Dynasty.[6]


Kim Man-deok was born into the noble class—her mother was a haenyeo of Jeju Island; her father was a high-ranking government official who met Kim's mother during the time he was exiled on Jeju Island. Kim's biological mother, Yi Eun Hong, does not tell her father, Kim Eung Ryul, about her pregnancy, as he and his clan could be punished by execution for inappropriate conduct during his exile. At birth, Kim is named Yi Hong. Her mother dies soon after her birth, leaving her daughter a flute that would one day help her reconnect to her father.

Kim is adopted by Madame Kim, a former palace lady, but who is known to Kim as "Hal-mae" (translated as "Granny"). Managing a training center in Hanyang for orphaned children, Hal-mae teaches the children marketplace skills and trades necessary for them to become successful in the future. During her time with the training center, Kim meets Jung Hong Soo, the son of high-ranking politician, Lord Jung Do-woong. Ill-fated circumstances causes Granny, Dong Ah, and Kim (who is now 12 years old) to run for their lives, forcing them to leave Hanyang and head to Jeju Island. In the process, they find the need to separate but agree to meet in Jeju. Kim is the first to arrive on Jeju Island. Dong Ah finds her, but the two are soon in trouble and they find themselves jailed after an altercation with young Kang Yoo-ji, the later Foreman of West Gate Market Brokers. To keep Dong Ah from undergoing torture, Kim is tricked into agreeing to become the foster daughter of the head gisaeng on Jeju Island. Rather than leave Kim, Dong Ah agrees to become her servant and protector.

Seven years later, Hal-mae finally arrives on Jeju Island and is reunited with Kim and Dong Ah. While Hal-mae tries to get Kim removed from the gisaeng registry, she finds that Kim's gisaeng foster mother and the Assistant Magistrate killed Yi Eun Hong, Kim's mother. To avoid public exposure of their misdeeds, they plot to frame Hal-mae and Kim as if the two were trying to escape the island. Hal-mae learns of the plot and in the process of finding Kim, the two are "caught". Hal-mae is confined in jail, while Kim is sent to the transitory wards (or quarantine camp) for epidemics as punishment. After being rescued from the camp, Kim begins to take care of those in the camp who are suffering from illness. During this time, Kim's father visits the island and discovers the birth of his daughter. Although he cannot publicly acknowledge her as his daughter, he gives her written documentation of her birth registry and bestows upon her the name, Kim Man-deok.

Later, Kim reestablishes East Gate Market Brokers,going into the business of importing and exporting goods between Jeju Island and the Korean mainland, and begins the process of restoring business ethics in Jeju. Kim's former childhood friend, Oh Moon-seon feels a sense of inferiority and underhandedly competes with her as head of West Gate Market Brokers. Man-deok's high standards and business ethics cause her business to thrive, while Madame Oh's jealousy and resentment of Kim, as well as her greed for wealth and power, eventually lead to her demise.

Transcending her lowly status as a gisaeng, as well as the restraints of her birthplace (Jeju Island was considered to be a remote place of exile during that time period), Kim Man-deok becomes the most successful female merchant of the Joseon Dynasty and one of the richest people on Jeju Island. A severe famine strikes Jeju Island in 1795, obliterating one-third of its population. Man-deok sells all her assets to help feed the starving people of her island, saving countless lives. In 1796, Kim travels to Hanyang (modern day, Seoul) to meet King Jeongjo, who bestows upon her the honorary title and position, Female Physician of the Palace Dispensary, as reward for her benevolous deeds.


Daughter of Lord Kim Eung-ryul and Yi Eun-hong, a commoner from Jeju Island.
Son of Lord Jung Do-woong; Assistant Section Chief of Board of Punishments; formerly Captain of Commerce Control Bureau.
Stepmother of Kang Yoo-ji; owner of West Gate Market Brokers.
Stepson of Oh Moon-seon; Foreman, West Gate Market Brokers.
Formerly Palace Matron Kim.
  • Kim Cheol-ki as Dong-ah
  • Lee Mi-ji as Deok-pal's mother
  • Lee Byung-wook as Kim Pan-sool
Junior Foreman of East Gate.
  • Kim Kap-soo as Kang Kye-man
  • Kim Myung-kook as Choi Nam-gu
Assistant Magistrate
  • Jo Yang-ja as Chok-sae's mother
Cook at gisaeng house.
  • Park Soon-chun as Yeong Cheon-daek
  • Choi Jae-sung as Lord Kim Eung-ryul
Father of Kim Man-deok; Inspector, Commerce Control Bureau.
Father of Jung Hong-soo; Minister, Board of Punishments.
  • Choo So-young as Eun-hong
  • Lee Deok-hee as Jung Hong-soo's mother
  • Song Yong-tae as Go Seok-joo
Senior Foreman, East Gate Market Brokers.
  • Jeon Ye-seo as Baek Jo-rye
  • Jo Jae-wan as Deok-pal
  • Oh Yeon-seo as Lee Eun
  • Jung Soo-young as Kim Seo-joo
  • Jo Byung-gi as Lee Bang
  • Jung Jong-joon as Mu Maeng-dal
Loan shark.
  • Jung Joo-hee as Holjjugi
  • Kang Min-suk as Chil-bok
  • Maeng Ho-rim as Minister Chae
  • Yoo Yeon-mi as Kkot-nim
  • Kim Sung-hoon as Wal-pae
  • Im Hyuk
  • Lee Jooyeon
  •  ? as Chief Clerk Kang
  •  ? as Captain Hwang
  •  ? as merchant seeking deer antlers at East Gate
  •  ? as Skipper Jang
  •  ? as cook
  •  ? as black cow rancher

Episode summaries[edit]

International broadcast[edit]

  • In Sri Lanka, it aired under the title, Diriya Diyani in October 2013 on Rupavahini replacing Dong Yi.



  1. ^ "Lee Mi-yeon Ventures into Uncharted Waters". The Chosun Ilbo. 20 March 2010. Retrieved 2013-03-30. 
  2. ^ Lee, Woo-young (17 June 2011). "Han Jae-seok, Park Sol-mi in a romantic relationship". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  3. ^ Han, Sang-hee (2 March 2010). "Two Heroes to Captivate Drama Fans". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-03-30. 
  4. ^ Oh, Jean (9 March 2010). "Will family fare still dominate weekend ratings?". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2013-03-30. 
  5. ^ Erwin, Nicole (28 October 2009). "Kim Man-deok: A symbol of generosity". The Jeju Weekly. Retrieved 2013-03-30. 
  6. ^ a b Han, Sang-hee (29 December 2009). "TV Dramas to Look Forward to in 2010". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-03-30. 

External links[edit]