During the Chosun Dynasty, a young son of a nobleman watches his own father being killed by a mysterious man wielding a sword with a special emblem. That image haunts him for the rest of his life. The boy, Gyeom, loses his memory of the incident after being traumatized by it. He is found and raised by a retired thief, who renames him Yong. As Yong grows up learning the art of thievery from his adopted father, he slowly starts to regain his memory. Haunted by the masked man with the special sword, Yong is determined to find the sword and bring justice to the owner for killing his father.
In his hunt for the sword, Yong starts to steal from the rich nobleman and give the riches back to the poor. He soon becomes a champion of the poor, and they start calling him Il Ji Mae (Lee Jung Ki). Having grown up in a home surrounded by plum trees, he leaves a small painting of a branch of red plum blossoms at the scene of each of his robberies, which earns him the name of Il Ji Mae (“il” means “one,” “ji” means “branch” and “mae” means “plum tree”).
In his endeavors, Il Ji Mae meets Eun Chae (Han Hyo Joo), the noble daughter of a government official who is intent on stopping him. Eun Chae, who also wants to help the common people despite her wealthy upbringing, is intrigued by the masked Il Ji Mae and develops feelings for him, although she has never seen his face.
“Il Ji Mae” is a 2008 South Korean historical drama series that originally aired on SBS and was produced by Lee Yong Suk. It is loosely based on a comic book by Ko Woo Yung, but the official rights to the original comic went to MBC, which broadcast its own version of the story in 2009. Many of the young stars on the series won awards during the 2008 SBS Drama Awards.