The Return of Iljimae

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The Return of Iljimae
The Return of Iljimae-poster.jpg
Promotional poster for The Return of Iljimae
(L to R: Koo Ja-myung, Baek-mae, Dal-yi / Wol-hee, Iljimae)
Also known as Moon River
Genre Romance, Historical, Action
Written by Kim Kwang-sik
Do Young-myung
Directed by Hwang In-roi
Kim Soo-young
Starring Jung Il-woo
Yoon Jin-seo
Kim Min-jong
Jung Hye-young
Country of origin South Korea
Original language(s) Korean
No. of episodes 24
Location(s) Korea
Running time 60 minutes
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:55 (KST)
Production company(s) Group Eight
Original channel Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation
Original release 21 January 2009 (2009-01-21) – 9 April 2009 (2009-04-09)
Preceded by General Hospital 2
Followed by Cinderella Man
Related shows Iljimae
The Vigilantes in Masks
External links
Korean name
Hangul 돌아온 일지매
Hanja 돌아온 一枝梅
Revised Romanization Doraon Iljimae
McCune–Reischauer Toraon Iljimae

The Return of Iljimae (Hangul: 돌아온 일지매; hanja: 돌아온 一枝梅; RR: Doraon Iljimae) is a 2009 South Korean historical action television series, starring Jung Il-woo in the title role of Iljimae, Yoon Jin-seo, Kim Min-jong and Jung Hye-young.[1][2][3][4] It aired on MBC from January 21 to April 9, 2009 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:55 for 24 episodes.

The series is based on comic strip Iljimae, published between 1975 and 1977, by Ko Woo-young which was based on a Chinese folklore from the Ming dynasty about a masked Robin Hood-esque character during the Joseon era. MBC bought the rights to the comic strip for their adaptation, which was to star Lee Seung-gi in the title role of Iljimae. However he pulled out and was replaced by Jung, which makes him the third Korean actor to play the hero following Jang Dong-gun (MBC, 1993) and Lee Joon-gi for Iljimae (SBS, 2008).[5]


Iljimae (Jung Il-woo) was born out of wedlock and his father was a high-ranking noble official while his mother was a lowly servant. To protect the honor of his father's family, he was abandoned as a baby and tucked underneath an apricot tree. Thus he was given the name Iljimae ("branch of apricot tree").

Iljimae was adopted by a family who lived in the Qing Kingdom. After tracing his roots back to Korea, his father rejects him once more. With a heavy heart, he returns to his native land and unleashes his anger upon the ruling class to fight injustice and tyranny for the sake of the commoners. Wherever he appears to uphold justice, he leaves behind a single branch of an apricot tree.

Living an isolated existence and hiding his face behind a mask to be a hero to the people, in Iljimae's life there is one woman who reconnects him to the world: Wol-hee.[6]

Cast and characters[edit]

Main cast[edit]

  • Jung Il-woo - Iljimae, a hero who appears when the world needs justice.

Although he is a handsome man with delicate features, he also has a strong sense of justice and chivalry. His first love dies tragically and after living an aimless life due to his broken heart, he meets Wol-hee, who is very similar to his first love. He becomes a legendary hero in the kingdom but his destiny is one of loneliness and heartbreak, making him a lonely and melancholy hero.[6]

Iljimae loves her for his entire life and she loves him back unconditionally. She is ahead of her times and displays a strong, charismatic personality and a burning defiance against evil people. She takes control of her destiny but in Iljimae’s presence, she turns into a shy woman.[6]

  • Kim Min-jong - Koo Ja-myung, underneath his charismatic demeanor he has a sad past.

A sharp thinker, he rises through the ranks in the government as he distinguishes himself as a capable investigator. He falls in love with Baek-mae, Iljimae’s mother, at first sight and continues to love her for his entire life. Guilt-ridden for compromising his principles by helping Iljimae escape from prison, he committed suicide.[6]

She was defiled by her master, a noble, and after giving birth, her baby was taken away from her. Then she was banished from the nobleman's household and for most of her life, she yearns to be reunited with her son Iljimae. She throws away the jewelry that her master gave her to buy her silence and becomes a gisaeng. Though she is from the servant class, she learns how to read and write by watching the privileged children learn the alphabet. She writes poetry. She has inner beauty as well as beautiful looks. Though she sets strict limits on what she will tolerate in a relationship or friendship, she has a warm heart but keeps that side of her under wraps most of the time. She comminted suicide upon hearing that her son had been sentenced to death. Unbeknownst to her, Iljimae has escaped with the help of Ja-myung, but he arrived too late to stop her.[6]

Supporting cast[edit]

Episode ratings[edit]

Date Episode Nationwide Seoul
2009-01-21 1 18.5% (4th) 20.1% (3rd)
2009-01-22 2 17.1% (4th) 18.4% (3rd)
2009-01-28 3 16.6% (5th) 17.1% (4th)
2009-01-29 4 15.1% (5th) 15.6% (6th)
2009-02-04 5 13.7% (9th) 13.7% (11th)
2009-02-05 6 15.3% (10th) 15.2% (9th)
2009-02-11 7 10.7% (11th) 11.5% (9th)
2009-02-12 8 13.1% (10th) 14.1% (10th)
2009-02-18 9 10.0% (13th) 10.6% (12th)
2009-02-19 10 11.0% (11th) 12.1% (11th)
2009-02-25 11 10.8% (11th) 11.6% (11th)
2009-02-26 12 10.5% (12th) 10.5% (13th)
2009-03-04 13 8.9% 9.4% (16th)
2009-03-05 14 9.1% (16th) 9.7% (14th)
2009-03-11 15 8.1% (20th) 8.2% (18th)
2009-03-12 16 7.6% 8.4%
2009-03-18 17 8.7% (19th) 8.8% (17th)
2009-03-19 18 8.5% 8.7% (19th)
2009-03-25 19 6.9% 8.0%
2009-03-26 20 8.5% 8.7% (19th)
2009-04-01 21 7.8% 8.5% (16th)
2009-04-02 22 8.2% 8.8% (17th)
2009-04-08 23 7.5% 7.8%
2009-04-09 24 8.2% (18th) 8.9% (16th)
Average 10.9%

Source: TNS Media Korea

International broadcast[edit]

Before it began airing in South Korea, broadcast rights were sold to Japan for US$1.32 million (or approximately US$55,000 per episode).[7] It aired on cable channel KNTV from November 1, 2012 to January 8, 2013.[8]


  1. ^ Han, Sang-hee (13 January 2009). "Young Star Jung il-woo Returns With Iljimae". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  2. ^ "Moon River Interview with Jung Il-woo". MBC Global Media. 29 January 2009. Retrieved 2013-09-13. 
  3. ^ Choi, Ji-eun (30 October 2009). "INTERVIEW: Actor Jung Il-woo - Part 1". TenAsia. Retrieved 2014-03-29. 
  4. ^ Choi, Ji-eun (30 October 2009). "INTERVIEW: Actor Jung Il-woo - Part 2". TenAsia. Retrieved 2014-03-29. 
  5. ^ Garcia, Cathy Rose A. (11 July 2008). "Retrospective on Comic Artist Ko Woo-young". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Moon River". MBC Global Media. Retrieved 2012-10-11. 
  7. ^ "Return of Iljimae sold to Japan". Dramabeans. 13 January 2009. Retrieved 2014-03-21. 
  8. ^

External links[edit]