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Haechi: Episodes 19-20

Our prince is in big trouble, having been literally caught red-handed at a murder scene. He has very good reasons for not telling the truth, but unfortunately, they just make him look more guilty. He’s given a chance to prove his innocence, but he may not be able to do that without condemning another blameless person.

EPISODE 19: “The girl with the black tattoo”

At the new gibang, Yi Geum sees Chief Inspector Oh being attacked. He nearly catches the young girl who stabbed him, but she gets away — but not before Yi Geum sees a tattoo on her shoulder that says “murder the master.” He rushes to the chief inspector and calls for help, but the man dies just as Byung-joo arrives.

He sees Yi Geum’s hands covered in blood and the murder weapon at his feet, and to be fair, it really does look like Yi Geum just killed the Saheonbu’s leader. Byung-joo declares this a murder scene and orders Yi Geum arrested, but Yi Geum gets ahold of himself and orders the gathering officials not to touch him, because he’ll go on his own two feet.

At the same time, Yeo-ji and Moon-soo fight with the corrupt gibang owner’s guards, and they manage to hold their own until his personal bodyguard gets involved. Moon-soo takes a stab in the arm meant for Yeo-ji, so Yeo-ji squares up with the bodyguard. She knocks the knife out of her hands, but then the gibang owner, Ji-kwang, calls his bodyguard away urgently.

Yeo-ji and Moon-soo hear about Yi Geum being arrested, and the whole gibang watches him being led away in shock. The girl who killed Chief Inspector Oh, now wearing peasant clothing, watches in horror and carelessly leaves a small bloody handprint on the wall.

Back at the Saheonbu, a new chief inspector is quickly chosen. Jang-dal and Ah-bong ask Moon-soo why the prince was even at the gibang, and Moon-soo says guiltily that he came to warn them of danger. Yeo-ji wants to go see him, but Jang-dal stops her, saying it’s too dangerous with all the Saheonbu inspectors out there.

The Saheonbu officials are arguing over what to do — some think that Yi Geum is obviously the murderer, but the new chief inspector says that because he’s the crown prince, they can’t just assume he’s guilty. The others argue that they can’t just not punish Yi Geum because of his title (funny, they were willing to let Yi Tan go just for having some royal blood).

Byung-joo says that Yi Geum was the only one at the murder scene, but that he wants to believe Yi Geum when he says he didn’t kill Chief Inspector Oh. He goes to talk to Yi Geum and tells him that he wants to believe him, and Yi Geum asks angrily why he’s arrested if that’s true.

Byung-joo says that Yi Geum’s testimony makes no sense and asks if he’s hiding something. Yi Geum is honest about what happened until it comes to his description of the murderer, where he’s reluctant to say if she was female. Byung-joo says that he either saw the murderer, or he is the murderer.

Yi Geum’s friends are barred from visiting him, Hyuk and his men holding them back, reminding them that there’s an orderly way to do things. Moon-soo accuses them of investigating the crown prince without permission from the Department of Justice, but Young-han snaps back that the Saheonbu has the right to conduct an investigations.

The Department of Justice arrives, but they only end up in a swords-drawn standoff with the Saheonbu inspectors. Inside, Byung-joo is pressuring Yi Geum to tell him who he saw and why he’s lying, or he’ll be considered the murderer. Yi Geum just says that he’s welcome to try placing the blame, since that’s what he does best.

The Department of Justice says they’re to take Yi Geum on the king’s orders, and the Saheonbu officials don’t want to hand him over, but they stop arguing with Yi Geum emerges from the building. The Department of Justice official says that Yi Geum is to come with them, adding cruelly that they won’t make things easy on him just because he’s the crown prince.

Yi Geum says wryly that there’s no place in the kingdom that’s easy on him. He starts to go with them, but when his friends push through the crowd, he asks for a moment. Moon-soo tells Yi Geum that it’s time for him to trust them, and that they’ll prove he was framed.

Moved and grateful, Yi Geum sees their wounds and asks if they got hurt because of him, but Yeo-ji says they’re just scratches. Suddenly, Yi Geum yanks her into his arms, but he’s not being romantic… he uses their proximity to whisper into Yeo-ji’s ear, “‘Murder the master.’ I saw a tattoo that said ‘Murder the master.’ Also, it was a young girl. Come see me, Yeo-ji-ah.”

Elsewhere, an old man is stopped by the police, who are doing searches for the possible murderer. He says that the barrel he’s carrying is a bucket toilet, and he’s waved through without question. The girl who killed Chief Inspector Oh is hiding inside.

Yi Tan is praying at a temple when Yoon-young comes to tell him that the time they’ve waited for has come sooner than expected. He tells her to keep her voice down in a house of prayer, but he looks smugly satisfied.

Public sentiment is strongly against Yi Geum, so the storyteller tells Dal-moon that he’ll go out and try to change the people’s minds regarding his guilt.

The palace is in a literal uproar — King Kyungjong tries to defend Yi Geum, but the Vice Minister Lee can’t be convinced, especially since Yi Geum claims he’s innocent but isn’t cooperating with the Department of Justice. The Norons are fighting among themselves, split down the line of who backed Yi Geum as crown prince and who didn’t.

Minister Jo questions Yi Geum, but he refuses to change his answers, saying that it won’t change the outcome anyway. Seemingly out of nowhere, he asks if the Office of Taxation official’s murder was solved yet, but there are still no leads.

Jo-hong enters and asks to take Yi Geum to his lunch. She leads him outside, where Yeo-ji is waiting for him dressed as a palace maid. He downplays the stressfulness of the situation, joking that at least he’s still pretty, and he says sweetly that he’s glad to see her.

Yeo-ji had told Moon-soo what Yi Geum whispered to her, and Moon-soo takes the information to Dal-moon. Evidently, the “murder the master” tattoo is the symbol of a group of slaves that banded together during King Sukjong’s reign and vowed to kill their masters. The recent murders of Chief Inspector Oh and the official from the Office of Taxation seem to be proof that the slave group is rising up again, which means they can anticipate more murders of nobles.

Yi Geum tells Yeo-ji that he’s shocked that the killer was just a young girl, and he’s worried that if he tells anyone, there will be serious consequences. Yeo-ji understands — she was young when the slave group was first discovered and she remembers the brutal slaughter that took place, and how even peasants with no ties to the rebel slaves died.

Talking to Dal-moon about it, Moon-soo realizes why Yi Geum won’t speak about the murderer — he’s scared of what the Saheonbu will do. Yi Geum tells Yeo-ji that the slaves must be punished, but he wants to prevent it from developing into another mass murder.

King Kyungjong finds Yi Geum as he’s walking back to his cell, and he says he wants to know the background of what happened and how it relates to the incident. Yi Geum looks terrified, unable to think of a quick answer.

The Saheonbu supreme court convenes and they make a unilateral decision — the entire Saheonbu is resigning. Only Hyuk and Moon-soo refuse to join them, and Young-han angrily wishes them luck running the Saheonbu all by themselves.

In private, King Kyungjong asks Yi Geum again what happened at that gibang, upset that Yi Geum doesn’t seem to trust him. He asks if he was mistaken about Yi Geum’s sincerity, so after a moment, Yi Geum says, “‘Murder the master.’ Do you remember that term, Your Majesty? I’m talking about the incident that put the entire country in chaos during the period of the late king.”


Yi Geum explains that he’s been silent because the murderer was just a little girl, and because if the Saheonbu gets involved it will throw the country into an uproar. He tells the king that he’ll accept it if he’s accused of a crime, but that he’s more concerned about who made that little girl murder a man. Before accusing her of a crime, he says, he wants to understand.

The king is alerted that the Saheonbu is outside resigning their positions en masse. He refuses to accept their resignations, so they formally request to be allowed to investigate Yi Geum on the grounds that they don’t trust the Department of Justice, whose job is to protect the palace.

King Kyungjong decides to turn Yi Geum over to them, but there’s a caveat – first, King Kyungjong has given Yi Geum three days to solve the case himself. Hopefully he can prove himself innocent, but if he can’t, then he’ll have to stand before the Saheonbu supreme court.

Vice Minister Lee asks King Kyungjong to withdraw this decision, afraid that something will go wrong and he’ll come under attack from both the Saheonbu and the Norons. But the king admits that he was swayed by Yi Geum’s desire to understand the people before convicting them, and he feels that as king, he should do no less.

Gibang owner Ji-kwang is upset that Chief Inspector Oh was killed at his establishment and caused problems for his business. Yi Tan shows up while they’re closed, asking for a table and terrifying former horse trader Gae-dol, but an unimpressed Ji-kwang demands to know why Yi Tan is here acting like he owns the place.

He orders Yi Tan to leave, but Yi Tan breaks a ceramic container and holds it to Ji-kwang’s face, growling that his Buddhist beliefs are the only reason Ji-kwang is still alive right now. Ji-kwang looks a little impressed, and Yi Tan suddenly drops the pottery shard and tells Ji-kwang that he’s here to help him.

Byung-joo approaches former-Minister Min, who correctly guesses that he wants help maintaining the Saheonbu’s pride after making a rash move. Minister Min is now the head of Hanseongbu, the regional capital of Joseon, and Byung-joo requests their help with Chief Inspector Oh’s murder.

Yi Geum enlists the aid of Dal-moon and his friends, and Dal-moon shows them a map of relay stations that were used during the last peasant uprising. He had Geon-tae ask around, but this time nothing suspicious was found near the relay stations. Jang-dal and Ah-bong say that nothing was stolen when the nobles were murdered, which is strange.

Moon-soo has learned that every single murdered noble was stumbling drunk when they were killed, which means they couldn’t fight back, yet the murderer had to stab them multiple times because they never managed a quick killing stab. This indicates that the killer is very weak, and Yeo-ji guesses that all of the murders may have been committed by young children like the girl at the gibang.

They go to the gibang, where Yi Geum finds the tiny bloody handprint and touches it with his own shaking hand. He’s devastated by the thought that children are being forced to murder, and Yeo-ji says they need to find the girl quickly.

We see the little girl, who’s sent underneath the king’s bedroom at the palace to clean the ashes caused by the hot air that keeps the building warm. The ashes cause the children to cough badly, but they’re told that what’s important is that the king doesn’t catch a cold. The king sees the filthy children, and Vice Minister Lee tells him what they’re doing.

Yi Geum had drawn a picture of the murder weapon, and Ja-dong asks if he’s sure that’s really what it looked like. He shows Yi Geum an identical knife that’s used at the palace, but they’re usually engraved with a letter, while the murder weapon had no letter. That style of knife is used in too many places for them to check them all, but Yeo-ji tries anyway.

While at the palace, Yi Geum spots the children working under the king’s bedroom. Yi Geum remembers that when he bumped into the girl at the gibang and she’d dropped something, she’d picked it up with a hand covered in something black — soot?

Despite searching anywhere children might be, neither Moon-soo nor Dal-moon turn up anything interesting. But when they head to the dock to take the boat home, they’re refused, even though there’s plenty of room. Moon-soo notices that oddly, only peasant children are being allowed to board the boat, when they were turned away after offering to pay double.

The little girl is still at the palace that evening when Yi Geum approaches her. He catches her when she tries to run, but he says he’s trying to help her. He lets go of her, and when she doesn’t run, he tells the girl that he saw her kill Chief Inspector Oh, and that he also saw her tattoo. He says that before she’s caught and arrested, he wants to hear why she did it so that he can help her.

She asks distrustfully how he can help her when he’s a noble like the ones who made her this way. She says that her father almost had to sell her, but she wanted to stay with her family. Yi Geum asks her to explain, but the guards are coming, so he tells her to run and redirects the guards.

Dal-moon and Moon-soo find a camp in the woods where hungry children, all with the “murder the master” tattoo, seem to live together, and Moon-soo asks how this can even be possible. They hear a voice, and behind them is the old man they saw on the boat — the same one who carried Chief Inspector Oh’s killer in the barrel.

Young-han hassles Hyuk, still angry at him for not standing with the rest of them. Moon-soo arrives with information for Hyuk about the human trafficking case, and Young-han gives him a hard time too, but Moon-soo is too upset for his nonsense and shoves him hard across the room. Young-han screams that Moon-soo is still in hazing and should bark like a dog if that’s what he tells him to do.

Moon-soo, out of patience, yells that the people are either being sold or living in vain, while those in power commit bad deeds and collect taxes. He asks a now-wide-eyed Young-han if that’s enough barking for him, then storms out.

He follows Moon-soo, as Young-han yells that Moon-soo has lost his damn mind. Hyuk says with amusement that Moon-soo’s words were much better than barking. He tells the room of inspectors that Moon-soo is the best new recruit they’ve ever had, with the most creative barking.

Yi Geum tells the king about his conversation with the girl, and how she said that she just wanted to stay in Joseon with her family and not be sold. He says they can’t ignore that these children committed murder, but that he hopes the king fixes the social problems that are causing this to happen.

King Kyungjong is shaken that he can’t protect his people from being sold off, even while he sits in a room that’s warm because of their small hands. Vice Minister Lee listens to their conversation, and he seems to see Yi Geum with new eyes.

He leaves the throne room and finds Queen Inwon looking for him. She asks his personal opinion on the crown prince, and he says honestly that he’s not sure yet what kind of person Yi Geum is. But he adds that when it comes to the qualities needed to become king, he thinks that Yi Geum might actually have what it takes to be the king the country needs.

Yi Geum sends a request to the Saheonbu which infuriates the new chief inspector. At the end of his allotted three days, he meets up with Moon-soo and Yeo-ji at the Saheonbu, and Yeo-ji says that “it” will be taken care of soon. Yi Geum faces off with the chief inspector, who says they’re only following the law, but Yi Geum questions who that law was made for in the first place.

He’s escorted to the supreme court, and Byung-joo enjoys telling Yi Geum that this isn’t going to be easy on him. He reminds Yi Geum that he once said he matured when he learned what happens when the powerful started to hate him, adding that Yi Geum should have learned his lesson or this wouldn’t be happening.

Hyuk, Moon-soo, Yeo-ji and the others use a battering ram to break down the locked gate into Ji-kwang’s gibang. Ji-kwang comes out and Moon-soo says he’s being arrested for illegal human trafficking. Yi Tan shows up, saying that the Saheonbu shouldn’t abuse people like this, and they all stare in shock to see him here.

At the supreme court, the entire Saheonbu come to their feet when Minister Min walks into the room unannounced. He says there’s something they need to see before they start the proceedings, and he calls to a pair of guards who lead in the little girl who killed Chief Inspector Oh.


I have no idea what Minister Min must be planning with this, unless it’s to try to get Yi Geum in trouble for not outing the killer. Because otherwise it looks like he’s helping Yi Geum, but I don’t think that’s true, because Byung-joo asked for his help. On the other hand, the “help” Byung-joo asked for was kind of vague, and he used to be pretty friendly with Yi Geum… but he was also one of the ones who threatened to quit if they weren’t allowed to charge Yi Geum with murder so I don’t even know.

There is a lot about the politics of this show that I don’t understand, though I do my best to figure it out at least enough for the story to make sense, and so far (with a little research) I’m able to follow events relatively smoothly. But I have to admit that I am deeply confused by the entire Saheonbu threatening to resign because they weren’t being allowed to prosecute Yi Geum themselves. The entire conflict earlier in the drama was that Yi Tan was known to be a serial murderer, but the Saheonbu argued that because he’s of royal blood, they couldn’t investigate him. It took Yi Geum fighting and even offering to go into exile himself to make them reluctantly willing to investigate a member of the royal family.

But now they apparently feel so strongly about their right to investigate Yi Geum that they’re all willing to quit? What happened to “we aren’t allowed to accuse a royal family member of a crime?” Yes, Yi Geum has peasant blood too, but he’s just been officially made crown prince and the future king of the nation, so I’m very confused that everyone in the Saheonbu is so offended by not being allowed to investigate him. Besides, it’s not like he was off the hook — the Department of Justice was just taking over the job. I know the Saheonbu said they don’t trust the Department of Justice, but that doesn’t really fly with me, because they were perfectly willing to let Yi Tan go free and many of them knew for a fact that he was a killer. So why are they this fired up about Yi Geum?

I think it was really important that King Kyungjong gave Yi Geum three days to investigate the murders, because he was bucking a lot of very old, very established laws in doing so. It tells me some crucial things about him as a person, mainly that he’s not nearly as weak as I originally thought. Now I think that he wasn’t so much weak as he was terrified, having been told for years that he wasn’t fit to be king then suddenly thrust into the role unprepared. But Yi Geum seems to be having a positive influence on him, and King Kyungjong seems much stronger and more confident lately, even making decisions that go against what everyone is telling him to do when before, he just caved and did whatever he was told. I think that Yi Geum’s ideals are also rubbing off on King Kyungjong, simply because Yi Geum is a caring person — it showed when King Kyungjong said that if Yi Geum wants to understand people before condemning them, then he should do the same. It’s really too bad that we already know he won’t be king for long, because the way things are going, he could have ended up a damn good one.


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the last scene of minister min bringing in the murder girl was the last I was expecting. and due to his corky behaviour, no one knows if he for or against the crown Prince


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This eps is so darn satisfying. We covered a lot of ground in an hour and it also delivered an emotional punch with the little girl story. I have to agree with what @lollypip said in last week recap that it makes for a very compelling conflict and exploration to have Yi Geum as an emotionally sensitive hero. His reaction to the girl's story will probably be the thing that started the change of public opinion about our crown prince.


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I'm so glad to see YG and king KJ's relationship growth in these episodes. They share the trust, compassion and desire to help the country. King KJ has always been viewed as weak and incompetent by both parties so having someone like YG around actually boosts his confidence, thus he can make those decisions against the court that he could not do a few episodes ago. I'm glad that at least the writer doesn't bring old conflict between their mother (Jang Heebin vs. Choi Sukbin) to segregate their alliance.
About Yi Tan, did they have hard evidence before to arrest him (as hard as seeing him with blood on his hand)? YT was backed by the Noron at the time, so that could be why there was opposition for arresting him, while YG has almost no backing (except for king KJ who is under lots of pressure from all sides).


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Surprisingly not a lot of people are watching this show but I'm hooked. The politics is good and reminds me of tree with deep roots.


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cc: @marcusnyc20 bong-soo

Thanks for yet another detailed recap, @lollypip. As you replied to @lordcobol in the ep. 17/18 recap comments, the political and historical details make for a hard slog at times. I, too, am mystified by all the waffling so many Saheonbu staff do. Methinks they doth protest too much about their being above engaging in political partisanship. Inspectors Hyuk and Moon-soo are the only ones I believe when they say that. The unwillingness of the Saheonbu to prosecute Yi Tan for his murder spree is a case in point. The fact that they’re attempting to force the king to listen to their demands by threatening to resign from their posts en masse is just more of the selfsame manipulation the scholars and braying ministers engage in.

I couldn’t figure out why Yi Geum was not defending himself against the murder charge. Instead of noble idiocy, he’s holding his peace to avoid another bloodbath. Given the rabidity with which Saheonbu is pursuing him, I’d hate to be a kiddie will a killer tat. Speaking of whom, the Joseon ondol-sweeps look like something out of Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist.

Did anyone else thing that the young girl with “murder the master” tattooed on her nape looks a little like Dal-moon? Might she be a younger sibling?

King Kyungjong is indeed making great progress in standing up against political pressure and manipulation. More power to him! As for Vice Minister of Taxation Lee, he finally redeemed himself a bit in my eyes by acknowledging to the Dowager Queen that Yi Geum may actually have what it takes to be a good king. Well knock me over with a feather.

The cliffhanger – Minister Min’s arrival at the Saheonbu Supreme Court with chief Inspector On’s young assassin – convinces me that Min is behind the killings of yangban officials. I’m willing to bet the ranch that he’s the one who set up that dilapidated camp full of kiddies monogrammed with “murder the master” tattoos. The fact that there have been neither robberies of the murder victims, nor activity at the relay stations associated with the earlier rebel movement, further supports my inkling that it is a false-flag operation directed by Min. I also suspect that he has compelled the children to kill by threatening their families, for example. And he’s set up the camp in the woods to give himself plausible deniability. It wouldn’t surprise me if Min is assassinating officials so he can fill their positions with his own people.

As for Yi Tan, seeing him pop up at Ji-kwang’s gibang was a surprise. I have no idea why he has suddenly sought out the businessman, whose reputation seems to have preceded him. I got the impression that Yi Tan may have heard about him when he was in China, which would make sense because of his human trafficking to that nation.


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