Iljimae (Korean일지매; Hanja一枝梅; RRIljimae; literally "One blossom branch") is a 2008 South Korean period-action television series, starring Lee Joon-gi in the title role of Iljimae.[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]

Iljimae poster.jpg
Promotional poster for Iljimae
Also known asIljimae: The Phantom Thief
GenreHistorical, Action, Romance
Based onIljimae
by Ko Woo-young
Written byChoi Ran
Directed byLee Yong-suk
StarringLee Joon-gi
Han Hyo-joo
Lee Young-ah
Park Si-hoo
Country of originSouth Korea
Original language(s)Korean
No. of episodes20
Producer(s)Lee Yong-suk
Production location(s)Korea
Running timeWednesdays and Thursdays at 21:55 (KST)
Production company(s)Chorokbaem Media
Original networkSeoul Broadcasting System
Picture format1080i (HDTV)
Original release21 May (2008-05-21) –
24 July 2008 (2008-07-24)
Preceded byOn Air
Followed byWorking Mom
Related showsThe Return of Iljimae
The Vigilantes in Masks
External links
Korean name
Revised RomanizationIl Ji-mae
McCune–ReischauerIl Chi-mae

It was directed by Lee Yong-suk,[3] and produced by Chorokbaem Media.[4] It aired on SBS from 21 May to 24 July 2008 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:55 for 20 episodes.[5]


Joseon, around 1633. Lee Gyeom (Lee Joon-gi) is the son of the virtuous nobleman Lee Won-ho, who is the king's trustworthy supporter and brother, and a central member of the secret organization Cheonwoohoe, composed of other five important nobles with the king as their leader. When a blind fortune teller, looking at Lee Won-ho's home, refers to the king that he sees a person as bright as the sun who would be adored by the people, the king killed Lee Won-ho as he believed that 'two suns cannot exist on the same sky'. Gyeom, from the inside of a safe, manages to survive and witnesses the murder; later, when he is forced to throw a rock at his mother's head to prove that he isn't her son, he loses his memory for the shock and is adopted by a retired thief, Soe-dol, who renames him "Yong-i". Thirteen years later, Yong-i regains 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 and, with the emblem on the killer's sword he remembers from thirteen years ago as his only clue, he swears to avenge his family. To find the sword and its owner, he disguises himself as the mysterious, black-swathed thief Iljimae, who breaks into the nobles' estates the members of the secret organization, Cheonwoohoe. Meanwhile, he also helps the people with injustices, becoming a hero. At the scene of each robbery, he leaves a handkerchief portraying a branch of red plum blossoms, symbol of the house where he lived and of his childhood memories: the very name of Iljimae reflects this, as "il" means "one", "ji" means "branch" and "mae" means "plum tree". The king and the nobility try to catch Iljimae and find his identity, especially the guard Byeon Si-hoo, who sees this as an opportunity to redeem himself from his life of misery and become a noble. In the meantime, Yong-i falls in love with Eun-chae, daughter of nobleman Byeon Shik and Si-hoo's stepsister, who can't forget her first love Lee Gyeom.



A no-good, lazy gangster by day, and a mysterious thief who protects the citizens in the dark.
A lovely and kind girl of noble birth who seems to be fated both for and against Gyeom.
A funny, silly swindler who was orphaned as a girl and is connected to Gyeom's past.
Once a poor boy, he was told at the age of nine that his real father was magistrate Byeon Shik and was sent to live with him, becoming a royal guard. However, his real father is actually Lee Won-ho. His dream is to catch Iljimae so that he can finally become a nobleman.


  • Lee Moon-sik as Soe-dol, Yong-i's and Cha-dol's foster father
  • Kim Sung-ryung as Dan-i, Cha-dol's mother, Yong-i's foster mother
  • Lee Il-hwa as Mrs Han, Gyeom's mother
  • Son Tae-young as Lee Yeon, Gyeom's sister
  • Jo Min-ki as Lee Won-ho, Gyeom's and Cha-dol's father
  • Ahn Gil-kang as Gong-gal, Bong-soon's foster father, ex-assassin
  • Mun Ji-yun as Dae-shik, Yong-i's friend
  • Kim Hyun-sung as Heung-gyeon, Yong-i's friend, shoemaker
  • Jeong Jae-eun as Sim-deok, inn keeper
  • Lee Won-jae as Jang Po-gyo, hunter
  • Lee Won-jong as Byeon Shik, Eun-chae's and Si-wan's father, Si-hoo's foster (supposed real) father
  • Kim Mu-yeol as Byeon Si-wan, Eun-chae's older brother
  • Yang Jae-sung as Shim Gi-won, Lee Won-ho's friend
  • Kim Roi-ha as Sa-cheon, king's assassin
  • Jo Sang-ki as Mu-i, king's assassin
  • Seo Dong-won as Eun-bok, hunter's son
  • Do Ki-seok as Hee-bong, gang leader
  • Kim Kwan-sik as Geok-doo, Heung-gyeon's father
  • Jang Eun-pung as Mak-soe
  • Lee Seol-goo as Kang-woo
  • Kim Chang-wan as King Injo
  • Noh Young-hak as Bong-soon's older brother


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.[6]


Original broadcast date Episode # Average audience share
TNmS Ratings[7] AGB Nielsen[8]
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% 21.5% 21.6%

Awards and nominationsEdit

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 broadcastEdit

So-net TV began broadcasting the series in Japan on 24 November 2008.[9] Reruns aired on terrestrial channel TV Tokyo from 15 June to 24 August 2009,[10] and Mnet Japan starting 25 August 2009.[11]

It aired in Thailand on Channel 3 from 4 December 2009 to 19 February 2010.[12]

It will also air in Sri Lanka on government owned ITN channel from 2016 year end.


  1. ^ "From Pretty Boy to Action Star: Lee Jun-ki Changes Shape". The Chosun Ilbo. 4 July 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  2. ^ "Young Star Jung il-woo Returns With Iljimae". The Korea Times. 13 January 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  3. ^ Lee, In-kyung (2 February 2012). "SBS Is About to Bring Out the Aces, Jang Dong Gun and Zo in Sung". enewsWorld. Archived from the original on 29 January 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  4. ^ Oh, Jean (19 November 2012). "Historical fantasies a passing fancy?". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  5. ^ "Drama 'Iljimae' has tough act to follow". The Korea Herald. 4 April 2010.
  6. ^ Garcia, Cathy Rose A. (11 July 2008). "Retrospective on Comic Artist Ko Woo-young". The Korea Times. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  7. ^ "TNMS Daily Ratings: this links to current day-select the date from drop down menu". TNMS Ratings (in Korean). Archived from the original on 28 November 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  8. ^ "AGB Daily Ratings: this links to current day-select the date from drop down menu". AGB Nielsen Media Research (in Korean). Archived from the original on 26 December 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  9. ^ "Iljimae to Air in Japan Starting November". KBS Global. 6 October 2008. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  10. ^ "イルジメ~一枝梅~ :テレビ東京".
  11. ^ Min, Ines (13 July 2009). "Actor Lee Jun-ki in Japanese Spotlight". The Korea Times. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  12. ^ "ซีรีส์ช่อง3เก่า อิลจิแม วีรบุรุษจอมโจร". Channel 3. 5 September 2015.

External linksEdit