Drama Recaps
Return of Iljimae: Episode 7
by | February 20, 2009 | 55 Comments

This is the episode featuring rising star Sandara Park. I had known she was to be featured soon, but as I’m not familiar with her, it took me a minute to realize who she was.

My first thought before recognizing her was that she was super cute. (Her acting ranged from merely passable to pretty good; she has good screen presence. I can see why PD Hwang cast her to lead his installment of the telecinema project.)


Jisun – “그는 널 사랑하지 안아” (He Doesn’t Love You) [ Download ]

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EPISODE 7: “Throw the shuriken”

While Iljimae washes ashore in Japan, Wang Hweng-bo is trying to plan another jailbreak. There’s an amusing segment when Wang Hweng-bo “breaks the fourth wall” — addresses the camera — while doing leg exercises in shackles. The narrator wonders fancifully how he’d exercise without the shackles.

Breaking the fourth wall is one of those things that are usually frowned upon, but this series has its dashes of whimsy and it’s in moments like this when the drama makes full use of having a narrator. Anyway, Wang Hweng-bo is trying to build up his legs to walk straight, because his side-twisty shuffle is so distinctive it would get him caught if he were to escape again.

Gu Ja-myung is facing his own tribulations, originating with the official who had stabbed Cha-dol for stealing. The haughty man, who is in charge of the capital city’s judicial administration, is the main reason Gu is blamed for the failure to capture Iljimae, as well as the unsolved marketplace murder.

As punishment, Gu is stripped of his position, to be transported away in exile. He’s put into jail overnight — next door to a taunting Wang Hweng-bo — before being sent away under guard.

Gu’s men know that he’s a good officer and boss, but even his superiors have no power in this situation. The official has too much influence. They all see him off with heavy hearts.

Nobody takes the news harder than the loyal Soo-ryun (who I believe harbors a love for him, which she usually keeps tightly suppressed). As he leaves, she fights back tears and declares that she will wait for him to return. Believing that solving the cold case is the key to bringing Gu back, Soo-ryun focuses on that.

When re-interviewing Bae Sun-dal, he mentions something that’s been bothering him — just before the body was found, he had bumped into a man with a large mole on his cheek. He had dismissed it as unimportant at the time, but it keeps sticking with him.

With this information, Soo-ryun tracks down the culprit and brings him to heel — and damn, I don’t know if the fighter is the actress or a stuntwoman, but she is badass.

The problem is, although they arrest the man and interrogate him, he was just a paid assassin. He refuses to reveal who hired him.

Gu Ja-myung makes his distant journey while bound by ropes (to prevent escape). When he and his guard stop to eat, he overhears men planning a nighttime attack and rape of a local woman — a former gisaeng named Baek-mae who lives alone.

Gu begs his guard to let him go for just a moment, insisting that there’s something he must do in the name of preserving peace and order. With Gu’s reputation as a decent man, the guard is persuaded to untie his ropes and even insists on helping.

The two men stake out Baek-mae’s home that night, and while they wait, Gu gazes longingly at her from his hiding spot. Soon, a gang of men sneak into the courtyard and, hearing her screams, Gu and his guard jump in and fight them off.

He asks if she remembers him and identifies himself; at the mention of his name, Baek-mae looks up in alarm and shoves away from him.

Without thanks, she says coldly that she never asked for his help, and shuts herself in her house. The guard doesn’t know anything of their history and is affronted at her lack of gratitude, but Gu just answers, “It’s because she’s been hurt by men.”

His goal accomplished, Gu resumes his travel, thinking, “If she’s alive, we’ll meet again some time.” (He has got to be the most avoidant Ardent Lover ever.)

And now, back to Iljimae.

After being rescued, he awakens in the home of a kind man and his wife, who have cared for him since the husband found Iljimae on the beach.

(Note: As with the scenes that took place in China, the actors speak Korean. A few Japanese words are peppered throughout, but we are to understand that their dialogue is supposed to be in Japanese.)

When he is up and about, however, he sees that the couple’s teenage daughter, Rie (Sandara Park), is suffering a serious illness. Her mother is beside herself with worry, and even though her father maintains a stoic face, it’s clear he also despairs for his daughter.

Spying a young man, Kotaro, hanging about the house, Iljimae finds him at the shrine. This is where Kotaro has gone every day to offer up a prayer.

Iljimae asks Kotaro about Rie’s illness, but they don’t know what it is; all they know is that she’s expected to die soon. Kotaro is a quiet, serious type, who says with contained anger that all this praying is useless, “But it is all I can do.”

Remembering his satchel, Iljimae takes out the wild mountain ginseng left to him by Dal-yi’s father, and offers it to the couple as his thanks for saving his life. Dal-yi had already told of the curative powers of the rare, valuable ginseng, but the Japanese couple’s astonished reaction underscores its importance. The mother grasps Iljimae’s hand and says, “You have saved our daughter.”

Soon, Rie is up and about, and back to her usual bubbly self. She and Iljimae spend much of their days together as he helps the family with her father’s blacksmith work, fishing, and the like.

Her interest in him is evident in the way she mentions, haltingly, how close their two countries are, as if to highlight their similarities more than their differences. He doesn’t encourage her, remaining friendly but aloof.

Rie asks why Iljimae hasn’t asked her father to train him, to which he responds that he IS learning. But she clarifies, not smithery — the ninja arts.

This is news to him, as he hadn’t known her father’s proficiency in the martial arts. Rie leads him to a secret room in the house, where they find an arsenal of swords, nunchaku, shurikens, etc.

Rie suggests that Iljimae ask her father to teach him. While normally her father might not agree, he wouldn’t refuse Iljimae after he’d saved Rie’s life.

So begins his ninja training, undertaken alongside Rie.

The training incorporates all sorts of weapons and takes them underwater and into treetops. All the while, a disheartened Kotaro watches Rie and Iljimae bonding from afar.

When he has advanced to a certain level of proficiency, Rie’s father hands Iljimae a shuriken for the last part of his training. He is to stay in the forest and use only that weapon to catch his food — if he is unsuccessful, his fate is to starve to death. He informs Iljimae that now there are no more debts between them. It’s up to Iljimae’s skills alone to become a ninja.

Rie worries over this extreme task as Iljimae heads into the forest, armed only with the shuriken. He climbs trees and stalks rabbits, but struggles and grows gradually weaker. At one point, his feet get tangled in the brush as he starts to chase one prey, sending him tumbling to the ground.

At this point, Kotaro appears, noting his exhaustion, and gives him a tip: the eyes must see before the body moves.

Kotaro’s words must do the trick, because Iljimae arrives at Rie’s household sometime later. He’s disheveled and tired, but holding a dead duck.

Her parents are pleased that he passed the test, but Rie is especially thrilled. She tells him that all that’s left is a final shuriken-throwing test to take place in few days at the village festival, after which he will officially become a ninja.

There’s another reason for Rie’s excitement, which Iljimae doesn’t realize immediately. When he asks Kotaro about the upcoming test, Kotaro assures Iljimae that with his skills, he’ll be able to pass it with his eyes closed. Guessing that Iljimae doesn’t understand why Rie encouraged him to train as a ninja, he adds, “It’s so she can marry you,” because a ninja cannot marry a non-ninja.

At the festival, Rie will have her coming-of-age ceremony, at which time she will designate the man she intends to marry. Before Iljimae’s arrival, Kotaro was the only contender.

To be fair, Iljimae has never encouraged Rie’s attention, and his affections are already engaged elsewhere. He answers that even if Rie names him, he can’t marry her. But Kotaro answers, “If you reject her, she’ll have to remain alone for the rest of her life.”

Kotaro points to a pathetic woman, now middle-aged, who was rejected and now suffers that fate.

If this is the case, Iljimae wonders, “Why did you help me in the forest?” Kotaro takes a long moment to answer, “I don’t know either.”

Iljimae thinks over his dilemma over the next few days, as Rie prepares for her ceremony. He can’t marry Rie, but failing the test would be a disappointment to her father. And rejecting her publicly would subject her to a lifetime of loneliness.

Not aware of his internal struggle, Rie enthusiastically awaits Iljimae’s test. It’s merely a formality, so he’s practically assured of becoming a ninja.

Test time.

Iljimae is given one shuriken and made to stand in front of one lit candle, before a panel of judges and witnesses.

He taks a long time to look at his target… and then throws his shuriken into the wall instead.

Because Rie’s family knows his skill, they understand that he meant to fail purposely; Rie is particularly hurt at what is essentially a rejection of her.

At home, Rie’s father asks if this means he intends to leave, and hearing Iljimae’s confirmation, he presents him with a shinobi katana (assassin sword).

Stunned, Iljimae starts to say, “I don’t have a right to accept…” Rie’s father declares a ninja’s foremost duty to keep himself safe.

That night, Rie comes to see Iljimae before he departs. He tries to tell her that Kotaro is a far better match for her, but she cuts him short. She clutches him tearfully and kisses him, saying, “Just know.”

Sobbing, Rie says goodbye and dashes off

The next day, Iljimae sets out (in what is my favorite scene this episode). He’s walking on a trail by a lake when a voice shouts his name from across the water. It’s Kotaro.

Normally soft-spoken, now Kotaro yells in a loud, declarative voice that he knows Iljimae failed the test on purpose.

Iljimae answers, “Take care,” and starts to leave, but Kotaro shouts his name again.

He declares, “Iljimae! You are my friend!”

Iljimae responds, “Yes, you are my friend, Kotaro,” then raises his voice to a yell, too: “Kotaro! I have a favor to ask! Make Rie happy!”

Across the water, Kotaro raises his hand in a wave. Iljimae waves back.

(Auughhh, I don’t know what it is, but this simple scene brought tears to my eyes.)

We learn that it’s been three years since Iljimae was last in the capital, where a familiar villain is up to something — this is the man who had ordered the murder that was blamed on Iljimae.

He has formed something of an organized crime ring, which kicks up a turf war with another group. Large-scale fights break out among the thieves.

The rivalry escalates when the other group brings in a strong fighter, a man who’s known for his hard head, literally. He easily subdues the thieves in the rival gang, so the first gang responds by recruiting a thug of their own — the giant Bulgasari, from Episode 1.

In this match-up, Bulgasari wins.

When Iljimae returns to Korea, he visits the monk (named Yeol-gong), who welcomes him happily and asks about his travels.

Yeol-gong wonders at Iljimae’s motive for returning. Iljimae answers that he was born in Korea and is a Korean, yet has no family roots here, nor anybody to welcome him back. However, Iljimae senses a connection to this country anyway, which he feels most keenly when reading his mother’s poem that was left to him.

Iljimae also tells the monk that on his way back, he had met another monk who had known him. Hearing the name “Tae-gam,” Yeol-gong answers that they’d studied together and that the man is quite skilled in the martial arts.

Back in Japan, a short while ago, we see how Iljimae and Tae-gam had met: the monk had seen Iljimae eating plain rice balls and given him a side dish to accompany his meal.

Iljimae recognizes the food as Korean (a type of daikon, or radish dish), and the monk explains that he’d always felt sorry for soldiers who ate plain rice and made those for them. He goes by the nickname Dakuan (which is a joke that he invented daikon).

They walk together for a while, coming to a location in the forest where Dakuan has planned to meet someone — a superior warrior who has never lost a fight.

It appears that Dakuan has brought Iljimae in the hopes of seeing him fight the warrior; he’s noticed the sword and guesses that Iljimae has some skills. The warrior sizes Iljimae up instantly, sensing that this is a formidable opponent, and challenges him to spar.

When Iljimae doesn’t take him up on the offer — he remains silent and impassive — the warrior pretends to lose interest, then suddenly launches into an attack. Iljimae reacts swiftly, drawing his sword and whirling out of reach. Iljimae’s reflexive actions confirm the man’s hunch, so he grabs Iljimae’s bag and splits it open, seeing the ninja accoutrements spill out.

The warrior declares the fight over. He tells Iljimae that he wanted to test him out because he’d liked the look in his eye, then asks what kind of teachings Iljimae follows as a martial artist.

Iljimae answers, using Yeol-gong’s words, “Those who can be killed can also be saved.” The monk and the warrior nod approvingly.

As they part ways, the warrior gives Iljimae a carved figure, the God of Fire (Acala), which will protect him. Iljimae asks the warrior for his name, and learns that this is famed samurai and sword legend Miyamoto Musashi.

Now we’re back in the “present” day with Iljimae and the monk Yeol-gong, who wonders at Iljimae’s next plan of action.

Iljimae answers that while he waits for the day he can meet his mother, he’s decided to use the skills he’s learned thus far to “help those who are powerless.” In the three months he’s been back, he’s seen for himself how the common people live. The capital is overrun with gangs and thieves, and he intends to help Gu Ja-myung on his return in ridding the city of them.

Soon, Iljimae is back in Hanyang (the capital). Wol-hee catches a glimpse of him in the marketplace, and immediately starts toward him…


First of all, Jung ll-woo is incredibly pretty in this episode. He’s always been pretty in real life and as Iljimae, but it’s amazing how lovely he is in this episode. Yet somehow (to me) he doesn’t come across as effeminate — his actions are quietly forceful.

(In contrast, Other Iljimae Lee Junki also has a very pretty look, but he’s always been overtly masculine — all bravado and macho swagger. Nothing wrong with that, but it would have been all wrong for this version, which plays with the balance of Iljimae’s masculine power and feminine grace. This is the interesting dichotomy of Jung Il-woo’s Iljimae.)

For what it’s worth, I can see why PD Hwang had initially cast Lee Seung-ki in the role, who also has an elegance and softness about him. I think he would have suited this part, and personally, I think he should be kicking himself for quitting such a great role with a great director. But I’m happy with Jung so no complaints.

Moving on — one thing that really struck me in this episode, and which will probably continue to strike me, is that everyone has such wonderful eyes! They are so expressive and telling, from Kim Min-jong‘s lovelorn (ex-)Officer Gu to Jung Hye-young‘s wounded-bird Baek-mae to Jung Il-woo‘s Iljimae — and even my favorite character this episode, Kotaro (actor Jung Sung-il).

Speaking of whom: His goodbye scene, and the way he rises above his jealousy and hurt to be the better man, is really moving. He could have easily meddled with Iljimae several times, and you get the sense he wanted to. But he didn’t, and for that he is rewarded with one good friend and probably wins the woman he loves anyway. All with soul intact.

That points out another thing that Return of Iljimae does so well, which is to make its guest characters memorable and, in many cases, very poignant. Some of these stories are only presented in very short segments — Rie, Kotaro, Dal-yi — but they still have an impact.

This one-episode guest star format isn’t a novel way of telling a story, but there’s a difference in the way it’s used elsewhere. Take, for example, a throwaway drama like Strongest Chil Woo. In that show, we had villains and victims of the week, and understood that the Righteous Assassin Trio were going to probably kill one bad guy per episode. The guest characters fulfilled their roles and some parts were touching, but I never felt the characters mattered beyond their one episode. Here, everyone matters — everything works to shape Iljimae and leaves its imprint on him.


55 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. BellaMafia

    I’ve been wanting to watch this one. However, my kdrama life depends on the mercy of subbers (for softsubs). I even skipped Lee Jun Ki’s version! Do you think this one is better than Lee Jun Ki’s? Is it too early to tell? Is it similar story?

    To be honest, I haven’t read any of your Return of Iljimae’s recaps, just to avoid spoilers (in case I’ll somehow manage to watch this one!). Great efforts, Javabeans! I always check your blog regularly.

  2. smiley6yrl

    Thanks Javabeans for another recapped. I have been reading some of your comments regarding this series and it seems like you are enjoying it. I tried watching the other version with Lee Junki but for some reasons, I didn’t like it one bit even when all the eng subs are done. Hopefully someone would do the eng subs for this drama in the near future so more people would be able to watch it.

  3. sarungbanggi

    glad that sandara park finally found her place in kdramas. she was popular here in philippines and then her popularity suddenly diminished. its good to see that she finally found her place again. can’t wait to see her speaking her own language. she used to speak so pooorly in tagalog.

  4. javabeans

    BellaMafia, I think you’ll get a different answer based on who you talk to. Lee Junki fans, I have noticed, are very vocal about preferring his version. I think that his Iljimae was more catered toward young viewers — eye candy stars, dramatic storylines, angst, and exaggerated comedy.

    Return of Iljimae, in my opinion, FAR outstrips SBS’s Iljimae. Heck, it outstrips a lot of other dramas, period. It’s not just the acting, not just the directing, not just the subtle human touch — it’s that this drama, somehow, feels like it lives and breathes. It’s more delicate but I find the emotions more relatable than the other version, which all but bludgeoned you over the head with theirs. I actually do see the appeal of Lee Junki’s version, but I can’t see rating it above this one on a purely objective (or trying-to-be) level.

    Despite the titles, this drama and SBS’s Iljimae are not really that comparable. Lee Junki’s version is really more comparable to Hong Gil Dong or even Strongest Chil Woo (although I see Chil Woo as something of a joke drama). Return of Iljimae is more on the level of Painter of the Wind, in my opinion.

    • 4.1 rob

      i’m a mature 23 year old guy and i can recognize a drama catered toward young viewer when i see one (let’s say…. dream high 2, or playful kiss). lee jun ki’s iljimae was definitely not one of those. it had non stop action and thrills ,the cinematography was outstanding,the script was well-written,the acting phenomenal.

      eye candy stars, dramatic storylines, angst, and exaggerated comedy,”return of iljimae” had all that,too. and yes, strongest chil woo really is a joke drama,at least you got THAT right ;).

  5. Snikki

    I’ve always liked Sandara. I think she’s naturally funny. Poor girl, she had (or still has) so many detractors. I hope she does really well in Korea.

  6. ohyehbb

    So I started watching this because I read a couple of your recaps, and you’re obviously a fan of the drama. And I really like it! Everything about it is really, really pretty, and I feel like the entire series is really… serene? graceful? I don’t know how to describe it–but anyway, it’s really lovely. I love reading your recaps, even though I don’t need to since I understand Korean. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this!!

    Oh man, I loved Kotaro in this episode! It was obvious that he was in love with Rie, yet he never did anything to harm Iljimae even when he could have. And that last scene with him, when he called out to Iljimae–so touching.

    And as for Jung Ilwoo… I was never really a huge fan of his during the highkick times. I didn’t dislike him, but I didn’t see what all the hype was about either. I think his acting has improved a lot since then, and I think he’s growing on me more now. I’m glad he’s playing Iljimae instead of Lee Seungki because as much as I love Lee Seungki, I think his face is almost too cute (like, baby-cute/adorable) for this role or something. Anyway, I’ve rambled, and now I’m not sure what my point is… I guess I’m satisfied with Jung Ilwoo as Iljimae? XD

    Again, thanks for your awesome recaps!

  7. Luv

    Many thanks for these ROI recaps.
    I always enjoy reading them.
    I like how this drama makes me feel…
    It’s very charming.
    Also…I like the color so much…so green…so alive 🙂

  8. petals

    Didn’t Sandara Park do a lot of acting in the Phillipines?

  9. km

    i haven’t watched this yet, but all your screencaps seem to be really beautiful. to be honest i wish lee seung ki had done this too, instead of some other acting project he’s taking up now :/ but i guess he was waiting to graduate from university first before acting and taking part in variety shows simultaneously.

  10. 10 cg(6

    Sandara Park did a lot of acting and used to be famous in the Philippines.

  11. 11 peachys2sleep

    I just realized that Sandara Park, Jung Hye Young and Jung Sung Il are all part of YG entertainment. I wonder if Director Hwang initially casted Jung Hye Young and then she recommended the other two.

  12. 12 BellaMafia

    Javabeans, thank you for your info! I’m not LJK’s fans though.
    From what you’re saying, it seems this version is more for my taste. *sigh* . I guess if I have to save lots of money to buy this one online..lol…

  13. 13 BlahBoo

    Haha I gues everyone was too distracted by the mention of Sandara Park to notice that you posted up Jisun’s new song? Just kidding XD
    But Sandara Park is awesome and I hope we get to see more of her now!
    As for Jisun, I REALLY REALLY missed her, and I’m proud that she came back with her own new album. GO JISUN & SANDARA!

  14. 14 din

    ah—!!! it’s sandy! hahaha.
    it’s good that her career is going well there in korea now.
    and if she becomes a big hit in the future,
    i betcha she’ll have a big fanbase in philippines :p
    i can still recall her saying “mahal ko kayo.” lol.

  15. 15 christine

    nice to see sandara park being recognize as an actor in her own country.

    yes, she did a number of movies here in the philippines and quite popular but i think she had a problem with her visa so she had to go back to korea.(not sure about this..that’s what i heard.hehehe^_^)

  16. 16 sophie

    thank you for the recap!

  17. 17 beanie

    I really like Jisun’s new song…this is my first time hearing it. I never even knew she had already come out with her first album. And I’ve always wondered…Javabeans, where do you find your music? Do you download it somewhere, or buy the albums? Just curious–I’m always looking for new music (I can literally spend HOURS at a time just sifting through songs and adding to my playlist). I always make sure to check your site too, not just for the great recaps, but also for the music!! Thanks!

  18. 18 bethany

    following via recaps and now going to get started on the actual drama… any thoughts on subbing? 😛

  19. 19 blavkum

    ive been waiting for this episode.
    ohhh…and sandara park is here too…gee… im happy for her…
    go sandy! 🙂
    thanks for the recap javabeans! 😀

  20. 20 zox

    I’m so happy for Sandara! She finally got her first acting gig in a drama. I hope she continues to improve her skills and that she has a lot of success in Korea.

    petals: Sandara did some acting but they were mostly teenybopper movies/shows and comedies. She’s naturally funny (well to Filipinos she is because she says the cutest things) This is one of the few times I’ve seen her doing serious scenes.

    christine: Sandara didn’t go back to Korea because of visa issues. What happened was she was really popular in the Philippines (she had so many endorsements and shows) and the YG Entertainment president heard about her. Sandara was still at the peak of her fame when she suddenly left the Philippines for Korea to “study” but people found out that she was taking workshops, presumably with YG. Nothing really came out of it, she was a presenter at an awards show and that’s it. After 5-6 months, she returned to the Philippines and expected to continue her showbiz career but because she was gone for so long, she wasn’t as popular as before and some other stars took her place. She was having some trouble getting tv work then she revealed that her dad was abusive, took all the money she saved up and had another family. Her home network tried to help her out and gave her some projects but ultimately, her family decided to just go back to Korea to start a new life because Sandara was the only one financially supporting the family after the dad left.

  21. 21 cathy

    It’s too soon to review this drama , i hope they ‘re doing well .I like LJK in Iljimae,
    his acting is excellent , cute and appealing ,There is chemistry between two main
    characters , romantic , touching.

  22. 22 shannen

    i agree with ZOX, that’s what happened to Sandy…it was her choice to leave the Philippines for 5-6 months to do some workshop in Korea and she was at the PEAK of her career…she was really FAMOUS even if she wasn’t that GOOD in acting…or even SINGING..

    anything can happen in 5-6 months,unlucky for her, her FAME diminished…ABS-CBN (HER HOME NETWORK) tried their best to revive her career, but to no avail…

    I am not a fan,but i wish her well..hope this is a start of her career in KOREA..

  23. 23 soonie

    “(Note: As with the scenes that took place in China, the actors speak Korean. A few Japanese words are peppered throughout, but we are to understand that their dialogue is supposed to be in Japanese.)”

    yes, but Javabeans, how is it that iljimae seems to know how to speak Korean and Japanese when he was raised in China? Did i miss something here?

  24. 24 saryKIM

    I love a drama with gradual, believable character development. I agree that this Iljimae is loads better than the SBS version.

    Thanks for the recaps 🙂

  25. 25 regie

    I think Sandara made the right decision to go back to Korea and start anew. There, she’ll have a chance to prove that she’s more that just a cute face. Though she’s definitely missed in the Philippines by her fans and friends and pointing fingers to whoever fault it was why her career ended that way is useless and to me it’s a long discussion.

    Good luck Sandy to all your future projects.

  26. 26 marz

    thanks for ROI recaps. im really liking this version.
    the most i could watch was a few eps of the other one.
    while it would be just right for sandy start her career there.
    im just not really that impressed, i dont really find acting to be stand out
    nor her singing. but good luck to her. i hope she does prove herself.
    oh, question though about why LSK didnt push through, was it because of the time delays or was it because of misunderstandings with the production team?

  27. 27 Maria

    I love Lee Jun Ki, and I was even willing to try watching it just because of him. But, in the end I never watched it because it just didn’t seemed interesting enough. The SBS ‘Iljimae’ had in the surface a ‘Spiderman’ feel, you know what I mean? I know my comparision might sound shallow and even strange because I’m judging the drama before even watching it, but the drama just didn’t feel interesting for me.

    With ‘Return of Iljimarae’ is diferent. I’ve checked your recaps and read synopsis and comments on other sites and I’m curious to watch this drama. What seems appealing of this drama is how everyone is praising it’s soundtrack, cinematography and feel of this drama. Looking from the surface of ‘Return of Iljimarae’, this drama looks very interesting, less shallow and more deep than the other version.

    I haven’t really watched any korean period drama till the end (it’s not my fav genre/type). So I was wondering if ‘Return of Iljimarae’ is worth a try? Or should I watch ‘Painter of the wind’ instead? I heard praises about ‘Painter of the wind’s cinematography and I’ve liked the acting of Moon Geun Young and Park Shin Yang in other dramas and movies.

  28. 28 -t-

    Thank God for your recaps!!! I was watching it without subtitles last week, and pretty much got the basic idea of what was happening but didn’t enjoy as much. So thank you very much!!!!

    Iljimae sure gets around…he’s been to China, Korea, and now Japan. It makes me wonder where he’ll land next.

    Having watched Lee JunKi’s “Iljimae”, I must “Return of Iljimae” is the complete polar opposite. I felt Iljimae as a series didn’t take itself seriously: it felt too exaggerated and over the top, whereas Return of Iljimae allows the viewers to live and grow with the characters making them more believable. I am not saying that Iljimae was bad since I enjoyed it but regarded the series more as an action-packed comedy with some dramatic moments.

    I didn’t think I’d like Return of Iljimae since I liked Lee Junki’s version, but I enjoy this one a lot more than the other. It’s visually stunning and poignant with great writing. There so much substance to the characters that you can’t help but be drawn in and have an invested interest in them.

  29. 29 tintin

    Thax for the review XD cause I don’t understand Korean language these days I’ve just watching and guess ^^ I haven’t watched Hong Gil Dong as well as Strongest Chil Woo yet +.+ I’ve watched a few episodes of Iljimae (Lee Jun Ki) before but I feel the drama rather boring (although I really like Jun Ki) I think his acting is no different from his “time between dog and wolf” when he wanna take revenge. Actually return of Iljimae is boring too in some first episodes cause the way story telling of the drama >< but Il Woo’s acting keeps me watching it (his acting make me suprising a lot) and I’m glad that I’m right IoI now the drama become more and more interesting and I am hooked into it. I also love the scene and the opening and ending song XD, and the action scenes are really awesome, better than a lot of other acient dramas.

    But there’s something I still wonder that why Iljimae is so quiet in some first episodes even he ‘s just 16, just a teenager ^^ (he becomes quiet and mature after 10 months + 3 years so that I can accept) So silence is his nature? 😀

    P.S: forgive for my bad English +.+

  30. 30 Shrimp

    Lol, I told myself that I hafta wait for Javabeans to finish recapping this episode first before i decide to watch it or not.

    I hafta admit that what i really did look forward to was what Javabeans has to say about our “PAMABANSANG KRUNG-KRUNG” Sandara Park *Ms. Quirky* . I’ve always tought that she’s a mediocre actress and that she was embraced here in our country not because she’s a really great actress, nor singer, nor dancer…ionno, she aint this diamond in the rough girl, but there was something about her that just captured hundreds of Fil hearts, that at one point in time she was the Philippine it-girl!

    …and since Javabeans rated her fairly well then….imma watch this series!

  31. 31 alodia

    I’m from the Philippines… and I just felt weird hearing Sandara speaks her mother-language… hehehe I’m just used to hearing her speaking in Filipino.

    Glad to see progress on her career in Korea now. I’m not a fan, but I agree with javabeans, she has a very strong screen presence even if her acting is not above average. Hope she’ll improve more… I don’t really watch her movies/dramas when she was still here in the Philippines so I don’t know if she already improved or not yet. Good luck to her. I bumped into her a couple of times while I was still working at her home studio (it was during the time she is still part of the reality star search contest). She’s a sweet cute girl running around the corridors of ABS-CBN. But I’m a sucker for excellent acting, so I didn’t give her much attention then. hehehe >.<

  32. 32 Kawaii_Gneh

    Hehehehe.. Sandara is so cute ang bubbly.. She gets improved. I got news that she will be having a new koreanovela under the same director of TROI. She is a main cast, and her loveteam will be a big star, I knew the faces of the boys to be chosen, but I don’t know, whats their name,hehehe.,

  33. 33 mummycow

    Tks for recap. Because of them, I started watching this drama and I really love it. You are spot on -this drama has a very lovely and graceful feel. And like you, I just do not enjoy LJK’s Iljimae. Jung Il Woo is doing a great job in this show.

    By the way, do you have the song they played at the end of the ep 7, 8, 9? I like it very much but don’t know where to download.

    P.S. We do have similar taste – I like Kang Ji Hwan and Lee Jung Jae too – my 2 favourite Korean actors 🙂

  34. 34 ...

    thnx for the recap!

  35. 35 kotatsulove

    soonie, when Iljimae first read his mother’s note he explained to Wang Hweng Bo that he’d picked up some Korean from his Korean friends living in China. as for the Japanese..I have no idea. I think they might have overlooked that :/

  36. 36 stefy96

    This drama looks very interesting. Does anyone know if any fansubbers are subbing this drama? I want to watch badly, but need english subs.

  37. 37 hjkomo

    @33 mummycow, you can download the OST from here – http://aja-aja.com/regular/return-of-iljimae

    Thanks again, Sarah! Everyone’s been waiting for Sandara Park to appear, but I found Kotaro’s character much more memorable. That farewell scene across the water was touching. It’s these little scenes that the PD gets so right. 🙂
    Even Miyamoto Musashi left a strong impression.

    And you’re absolutely right – bravado and swagger doesn’t fit this Iljimae at all.
    Kudos to Jung Il Woo.

    Can’t wait for more…

  38. 38 Abby920

    I liked the first Iljimae mainly because of the supporting actors/actresses and I did like Li Junki too. But after reading all your recaps on this version I think I will enjoy it more than the first one.

    Thanks Javabeans.

    This site is really awesome. Sometimes it takes me hours just to read your recaps Sarah and the comments, I enjoy them all good or bad. If I don’t know how to control myself I may be glued here in front of my computer just going through this site 🙂 I love it here.

  39. 39 hjkomo

    Oops, double post. 😉

  40. 40 Ajussiwannabe

    The Japanese priest that Iljimae met in Japan is an actual historic figure named Takuan Soho, a renowned Zen master. He is famous for advising Miyamoto Musashi, as depicted as the warrior carrying an oar in the drama, and Yagyu Munenori, Musashi’s arch-rival. Takuan is indeed the person whose name is used to referred to the pickled radish.

  41. 41 DeCaf

    i love your recaps 🙂 No one does it better than you….You are a gifted writer.
    I didn’t think another version of Iljimae would spark interest but kudos to the PD, writer & Cast because they pulled it off. You’re right about JIW, now I understand why PD chose him to play the part.

  42. 42 merl

    Sandara gets to kiss Jung Il Woo…well!!! Her decision to go back to korea is absolutely right…she will be one of their multilingual actresses speaking Korean, English and Tagalog…it may be a slow start but it’s a start nonetheless…GO GET THEM GIRL!!!

  43. 43 zox

    Someone said she also knows Mandarin since she went to a Chinese school so that’s 4 languages. 😉 Good luck on your career Sandara! 😀

  44. 44 Ariel

    I remember Sandara Park while auditioning for a reality star search here in the Philippines, one of the judges said she has good screen presence and that the camera love her. She glows from all angles, must be that famous Korean skin. Good luck to her and I hope to see her in more K-drama. K-drama being popular here in the Philippines I’m sure her fan base will look forward to seeing her.

  45. 45 grAce

    thanks for the recap javabeans! loving it…

  46. 46 Beng

    i’m happy for Sandara. She made a lot of people here in the Philippines happy. Her honesty won the Filipino heart. We also love the way she murders our Filipino language. So funny. Hope she won’t forget it and all of us. Her fans will truly be happy to see her. I will check who got the rights to air this Return to Iljimae here in the Phils.

  47. 47 all4movies

    I’m really liking this Iljimae a lot. As you say, the sum of its parts in addition to it’s great casting, makes for a very enjoyable experience.

    I like the music which has echoes from great sageuk dramas like Dae Jang Geum and Hwang Jini and the lovely paintings/manga images appeal more to me more than Painter in the Wind, make this an outstanding drama for me. Plus, the lush scenery and great direction results in a feast for the senses.

    Waiting for english subs for episode 8.

  48. 48 amie

    so happy that she made it in korea! Go Sandy!

  49. 49 Pau

    Go Sandara! Kayang kaya yan. 🙂

    And thank you javabeans for another recap. Sandara may be Korean by blood, but we, Filipinos, accept her as our own too. lol That’s why we defend and support her.

  50. 50 deeta

    Acting wise, I agree that Lee Seung Ki should be regretting because this drama would have been a great learning experience. On the other hand, by sticking to 1N2D who was (still is too, I guess) a rating monster, he did really well in terms of popularity. As well, I still think Jung Il Woo has better chemistry with Yoon Jin Suh that LSK would have.

    I wasn’t very impressed with Sandara Park. She was okay, but in no way she was great. Like you said, she was passable, her story was short, so I guess that was enough. On the other hand, Kotaro, who had even less scenes, was simply fab.

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