Il Ji-Mae: The Phantom Thief is set during the Joseon Dynasty, Iljimae acts as a useless gangster in the marketplace by day but at night he is a chivalrous robber who robs corrupt government officials to give to the poor. After each robbery he leaves behind a wooden branch from a plum tree at the site of the robbery to take responsibility for the robbery. Bong Soon is a hilarious girl with good martial art skills and lives as a swindler.
She only loves Iljimae and sacrifices her whole life for him. Eun Chan is a doctor’s daughter and is good in nature and usually helps miserable people. She meets Iljimae once by chance, and their sweet love story begins. However, her love puts Iljimae in a dangerous situation because an Imperial Guard also loves her.
- Drama: Il Ji-Mae: The Phantom Thief
- Revised romanization: Iljimae
- Hangul: 일지매
- Director: Yong-seok Lee
- Assistant Director: Choi Hyeong-Hun
- Writer: Choi Ran
- Network: SBS
- Episodes: 20
- Release Date: May 21 – July 24, 2008
On a night when the plum blossoms were in full bloom, young Geom (actor Yeo Jin-gu) witnessed the death of his father. The black emblem engraved on the sword shone under the moonlight… His father’s blood was splattered on the plum blossoms… After that night, Geom’s life became a wretched existence. He was adopted by a thief, Swe Dol (actor Lee Moon Shik) who named him Yong.
One day, Yong (actor Lee Joon-ki) remembered his past when he was being chased by a group 13 years ago (1644. 22nd year of King In-jo’s reign). Thoughts of revenge didn’t occur to him. His dreams were to be reunited with his mother and sister, recover his family home, and live with his family again. But when he finally met his sister again, she was executed in front of him. Revenge was all he wanted after that. Yong has a tattoo of the black emblem, which he saw on the sword that killed his father, engraved on his chest.
With the skills he learned from his foster father, who was a small-time thief, he obtained information from the nobles by committing his first break-in. But he left behind a plum blossom by accident. When the officials found this evidence, people began calling him “Iljimae” which means “A single stalk of plum “. From then on, he left behind a painting of red plum blossom to mark his presence and prove that he was the burglar everytime he robbed a house.
Yong discovered the existence of a secret list, with the names of all the members of the secret Tianyou Clan while slipping into a nobleman’s home in search of the sword with the black emblem. Yong recalled that his father was a member of the secret Tianyou Clan. He then decided to use Eun-chae (actress Han Hyo-ju) to obtain the full list. Under his meticulous plan, Iljimae approached Eun-chae. Eun-chae fell into love with Iljimae and the feelings became mutual but he kept his focus on getting revenge and holding back on telling the truth to Eun-chae.
The royal court was deploying all their forces to capture Iljimae. Shi-hoo (actor Park Shi-hoo) failed to capture Iljimae twice during a stakeout. But Iljimae suffered a deep gash from Shi-hoo’s sword.
Bong-soon (actress Lee Young-ae) discovered Yong lying half-unconscious from his wound and she took him to her foster father Gonggal, who saves Yong’s life. Yong then found out that Gonggal is one of the two legendary assassins and begged Gonggal to teach him martial arts.
The stories of various incidents involving Iljimae spreaded among the people who began to worship him as the hero of the commoners. Iljimae robbed more noblemen to the delight of the people.
Royal palace prosecutor Shi-hoo became obsessed with catching Iljimae. King In-jo felt threaten by the growing reputation of Iljimae as the king of the commoners and wanted him captured at all cost.
Mysterious deaths kept occurring after the death of his father. Small nail scratches are found on the dead bodies that keep turning up. The shocking truth emerged… Who wielded the sword with the black emblem? Iljimae then bravely embarked on his final mission!
- Il Ji-Mae: The Phantom Thief Torrent Files: The 2009 MBC drama “Moon River” (Dolahon Il Ji-Mae), also centers around the character Il Ji-Mae, but “Moon River” focuses more on Il Ji-mae’s personal life.