The Return of Iljimae

The Return of Iljimae (2009)

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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 1,097 users
Reviews: 6 users

The story is about a man fighting against the selfish and corrupt government to save the ordinary peasants. Iljimae was abandoned by his birth father and adopted by a Chinese couple. He returns to Korea to find his birth family and realizes how unjust the world really is. He watched as his first love, Dal Yi, was wrongfully put to death. Iljimae then vows to help the commoners from the corrupt government officials.

  • Native title:

    돌아온 일지매
  • Also Known as:

    Iljimae Returns ; Moon River ; Dolanon Iljimae

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15 people found this review helpful
Other reviews by this user
Mar 26, 2014
  • Overall 8.5
  • Story 8.5
  • Acting/Cast 8.0
  • Music 8.0
  • Rewatch Value 7.0
Discussing tone in the context of a review is tricky. A show’s atmosphere is something so ephemeral it’s hard to even define, much less evaluate. That being said, The Return of Iljimae is most remarkable for its evocation of mood. A fantasia in a minor key, it weaves a bittersweet, melancholy spell, accented not so much by its characters’ tragedies as by their loneliness.

Intentionally structured like a storybook (complete with an read more initially over-intrusive narrator), the show jettisons many of k-drama’s structural clichés as it follows the growth of its protagonist from innocent young man to wiser hero. Jung Il Woo gives a lovely (in more ways than one) restrained performance full of moments of quiet sweetness and pathos. Jung Hye Young, as his mother, is also exceptional, radiating warmth and longing. There are plenty of fight scenes and large helpings of occasionally distracting slapstick comedy, but the show never loses its contemplative feel. The characters find fleeting moments of connection in sex, friendship, compassion, and sacrifice but the world’s injustices are always there, calling them away from comfort. The show suggests that heroism is not a natural gift, but something learned and struggled for and easily lost if the passion for justice tips over into hatred. There are occasional missteps, including a bizarre first episode, but once the show finds its rhythm, it becomes a hero’s journey very much worth the taking.
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21 people found this review helpful
Other reviews by this user
Apr 26, 2012
  • Overall 8.0
  • Story 8.0
  • Acting/Cast 8.0
  • Music 8.0
  • Rewatch Value 6.0
'The Return of Iljimae' has many strong points, and in many ways is more complete story-wise than the other drama 'Iljimae', but I wasn't entirely happy with it.

Having watched 'Iljimae',I must say, there is very little in common between these two dramas, other than the 'Robin Hood' nature of Iljimae and his rather misfortunate connection to his parents.

The return of Iljimae has a broader framework,is more well written, and explores read more the identity of Iljimae as a hero of the times, working against injustice than for any personal quest. I felt that the story and the characters were more complete in this.

The action sequences are good. There must have been plenty of rope and pulleys used in the making, as Iljimae and numerous others are always flying and leaping about in these scenes.
The episodes are all interesting, and keep you moving forward without boredom.

Regarding the cast: I had wanted to watch this initially for Jung Il Woo, and he didn't disappoint. He is good as Iljimae, truly the 'pretty girl-like-boy' as often referred to in the drama (I loved his ponytail hair).
The supporting cast is good,with many strong performances except that some secondary characters were made annoying by over-acting.

Despite all this, I didn't feel really satisfied with this drama. There wasn't so much plain fun or happy-energy associated with it.

Iljimae's character is mostly solemn/sad/serious/angry. Very rarely do we get to see his smile, let alone hear a laugh. There are so many things happening, we can near feel him carrying the burden of the world on his shoulders.
The romantic relationship is developed on realistic terms, along the sidelines of the plot.
The ending too, although happy, has a solemn, contemplative feel to it.

To sum up, although lacking in story and character development, character Iljimae in the drama 'Iljimae' evoked more happiness than the one we find in 'The Return of Iljimae'.
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Make a Recommendation Recommendations

A remake of this drama. Both Lee Jun Ki and Jung Il Woo portrayed their roles perfectly and they both are very hot <3
Recommended by xxATxx

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Comments (16)

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    jesy Jul 9, 2017

    this is a good period drama except for the narration. I got bored at first due to slow-paced story. if not for Jung il woo, i would drop from watching. But he's one of my idols in kdrama, i patiently watch this.. but hola... as the story goes on, my curiosity went intense.. and didnt mind the narration tho..and i was hooked by each episode.

  • Reply
    namopanik Jul 8, 2017 - edited

    I was forewarned with off-screen narration, but not the modern day opening. Should I expect for things to re-emerge from the historical part at some point? If yes, does it form a subplot, or is is just a frame?

  • Reply
    Cherry Quin Mar 31, 2017 - edited

    Is Jung iL Woo the main lead on this drama?

  • Reply
    TAMAREXXE Dec 31, 2016

    I found this a magnificent ride. Infinitely superior in every way to the utterly soporific and boring Iljimae.

  • Reply
    shiu545 Mar 12, 2016 - edited

    I've tried and tried to get into this drama. After a 5th try last night, I thought to myself, "No more wasting my time!" One blogger praised this drama for the music score, cinematography, good pacing of story, and "pretty solid acting." Many other dramas had better music, cinematography, etc. And, "pretty" is right, but not as applied to the acting, but to Pretty Boy Jung Il-woo, who in my opinion cannot act. The above-mentioned blogger, BTW, did not like Lee Junki's Iljimae. I disagree with her … I finished that drama and thought the time spent was worthwhile (although Han HyoJoo's acting was very "stony").

    • Reply
      _Rosie Sep 5, 2016

      I too preferred the LJK Iljimae and found this one a total chore to finish

  • Reply
    Weirdestone Jun 25, 2014 - edited

    Is this a remake or continuation of Iljimae?

    • Reply
      risingsun Jul 29, 2014

      It's not related to the Iljimae with Lee Jun Ki, iirc this one is based on a manhwa.

    • Reply
      Weirdestone Jul 31, 2014

      Oh ok thanks! :)

  • Reply
    rodeul Jun 12, 2014

    I need junki and hyojoo in this :(

  • Reply
    racheltan May 27, 2014

    so slow and boring.. irritating narrator and didn't like the female actress either.

  • Reply
    antonio96 Apr 1, 2014

    narration is killing me

  • Reply
    De1vSkm2 Mar 23, 2014

    this drama was more like a history class than a historical drama...

  • Reply
    Rina Sep 13, 2013

    It's a fine drama, But there is something about Jung Il Woo that keeps me from liking it even more.

  • Reply
    NoticeMeOppa Aug 2, 2013

    I wish Lee Jun Ki was in this one also T-T

  • Reply
    moonlitebliz Jul 30, 2013

    i really liked this version!!!

  • Reply
    meganjoy12 Jun 10, 2013
    Reveal Spoiler »
  • Reply
    WeAreOneExotics May 27, 2013 - edited

    Nothing's actually wrong with it, but... I can't stand movies where if the guy is hot, and the girl is not, or if the girls hot, and the guy is ugly... But I think they should've used a different girl in here. No Offense... >.>


  • Country:

    South Korea
  • Type:

  • Episodes:

  • Aired:

    Jan 21, 2009 to Apr 9, 2009
  • Aired On:

    Wednesday, Thursday
  • Network:

  • Duration:

    1 hr. 5 min.


  • Score:

    7.4 (scored by 1,097 users)
  • Ranked:

  • Popularity:


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