Based on a fictional book about a Robin Hood in Korea, Hong Gildong, this drama is very loosely based off of that book and the time it was set in.
Hong Gil Dong was the illegitimate son of a high ranked minister. A local monk took him under his wing and taught him martial arts. Hong Gil Dong was inspired to fight for the injustice in this society that divided people into nobles and ordinary citizens whereby the former enjoyed all the privileges due solely to their birth.
The heroine, Heo Yi Nok, had just returned to Korea from China with her grandfather. They made their living by putting on shows and selling their special brand of medicine in the marketplace.
Lee Chang Hwi had been told since he was young that he was the rightful heir to the throne which had been usurped by his half brother. He had also returned from his exile in China and was plotting to overthrow the emperor.
The three got entangled in love, hate, loyalty and betrayal and only one side can win.
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There is the central theme of the Gil Dong legend running through out, a series long plot to restore a displaced king and lots of love triangles all around. (love quadrangles?) In the mix, there are several short plot stories and baddies for Gil Dong to fight as he gathers his "band of merry men", rights the wrongs he sees, tries to protect those he loves and begins to suss out the worthiness (or lack thereof) of a future king.
The fusion sauguk element is fun. I wish I was even a little adept at Korean language and culture so I could truly appreciate the popculture and slang built into the language of the characters.
It's swashbuckling, over the top and a lot of fun. The writing is clever with some twists you just don't see coming and game changers that keep you moving along with the 24 episode tale.
I recommend it very highly.
Kang Ji Hwan was quite lovely as the main character and his acting stood above the rest of the cast.
The plot moves quite well, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. By the last third of the series, however, I started to feel that the plot was getting a bit repetitive and not as engaging. The ending was a bit predictable to me, but, it was still touching and hopeful.
But all in all, a quite satisfying and suprisingly meaningful drama.