The battle to claim Iljimae
Actors Lee Seung Gi, Lee Junki
Iljimae is one of those folk-legend heroes, a real-life Robin Hood kinda guy dating back to the Chosun era who’s an ever-popular source of dramatic material.
Jang Dong Gun played him in one film version in 1993, and Choi Su Jong played him in a modernized version in 1990. Even Super Junior star Choi Si Won gave him a cheeky nod in the recent fusion sageuk parody The Story of Hyang Dan (the brief reference comes at the end of the second episode). A brief internet search also brings up the 1976 film version Righteous Fighter Il Ji Mae, a 1978 Flying Il Ji Mae, a 1961 title The Chivalrous Robber Il Ji Mae, and several animated versions to boot.
So when it became known that both MBC and SBS were preparing drama series based on the folk legend, both starring young rising stars, both to broadcast in early 2008, well, it’s no wonder the comparisons are flying and speculation rampant over which version will, to borrow a figure of speech, reign supreme. Not to mention that both Iljimae series will have to battle it out with yet another historical figure based on another Robin Hood-y popular hero, Hong Gil Dong.
SONG OF THE DAY
Pia – “The Oracle.” To be honest, I don’t really like Pia — their brand of loud, energetic rock music is often too loud and discordant for me to enjoy, and reminds me of a lot of American rock bands I don’t particularly care for. But I do like this song. [ zShare download ]
Well, let’s compare:
Both have PDs with some drama experience at the helm: MBC’s will be produced by Group Eight and directed by Hwang In Roi, who directed Goong. SBS’s is produced by Green Snake Media and directed by Lee Yong Seok, who was behind Korea Secret Agency (aka Invincible Parachute Agent). MBC’s has cast singer Lee Seung Gi in the title role, while SBS has hot film and drama actor Lee Junki.
MBC touts an early advantage, having secured the copyright from now-deceased artist Go Woo Young, who apparently created a well-known multi-volume set of illustrated books (I hesitate to call them comic books) for Iljimae. SBS says they’ll work on their own without the benefit of the original work, but they must be feeling uneasy.
PD Hwang In Roi is already location scouting in China, since his MBC version of the series will be shot in various locations in Korea, China, and Japan. He plans to use a fresh and new concept while remaining faithful to the original story.
From the 1976 film version
I’d say Green Snake Media is the bigger name in dramas, producing hits like Lobbyist, Jumong, Unstoppable High Kick, All In. Group Eight did the two Goong series as well as Fantasy Couple, but I think Green Snake has the edge in terms of money and investment. I also give SBS the edge in casting, because while Lee Seung Gi is on the rise, he’s more noted for his singing, and his acting resume pales in comparison to Lee Junki’s, who is not only popular but has already distinguished himself as a solid actor. Lee Junki has appeared in several films, and has already been the lead actor in a drama series with the successful Time of Dog and Wolf. Judging from fan response, Lee Junki’s role is the more anticipated of the two.
This should prove fascinating even just as a study in storytelling and drama-making, to see both versions side by side like this. It’s not every day you get such a convenient way to do that — for instance, Hwang Jini may be the most recent example of two different takes on the same original story, but the differing formats (drama series and film) allow for significant disparities.
So, SBS has the edge in terms of production credits and lead actor. And MBC has the advantage in having licensed the original books and potentially airing first. Well, if anything, hopefully the outcome is a rise in quality in both series as a result of the direct competition.
Fanart depicting Lee Junki as Iljimae with his signature flower image
Choi Si Won as Iljimae in “The Story of Hyang Dan”
Iljimae’s own historical village