Thursday, September 29, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Synopsis: Episodes 16-20

Episode 16

Minister Hong puts off his own impeachement by using a forged letter to accuse Jo Ban of planning to attack the palace. Bang-Won figures that it has been Hong's plan to attack the Haedonggap clans all along, but Sambong thinks he's after the General. Sure enough, Hong threatens Min Je to have his clan members sign a paper accusing Yi Seung-Gye instead.

Bang-Won finds out from his wife what Hong had said to her father. His father goes for help to General Choi while he confronts the Min clan. He and his brothers playing with a little gunpowder has given him an idea. He fills a small box with gunpowder and another with rocks and has Boon-Yi bring him one - he doesn't know which.

When the Min clan convene to discuss Hong's paper, Bang-Won shows up with his guards and the box. He lights the fuse and tells them to sign a different paper, this one charging Prime Minister Lee, Hong, and Gil with stealing land, taking bribes, and falsely accusing Jo Ban. They sign reluctantly and the box turns out to be filled with rocks. He knows they will never admit they were frightened into it.

Historical note: Hong In-Bang stealing land and accusing Jo Ban really happened, but Bang-Won did not really have the Min clan sign anything.

Episode 17

General Choi gets an order from the king to arrest the Evil Three and heads to the tribunal to get soldiers. Minister Hong gets there first however, and takes the soldiers to arrest General Yi. When they get to Yi's house everyone is gone, so he goes to the palace next. There he has a standoff with General Choi, but in the end the soldiers side with General Choi and arrest him.

Prime Minister Lee gets the news and calls for his generals to meet him in his secret room behind the bookcase. He tells General Jo Min-Soo to support Choi and Jo says he has already bought off one of Hong's servants.

Meantime General Yi has surrounded Gil Tae-Mi's house. There is a fight but Gil goes missing. He resurfaces to rescue Hong from about ten soldiers who run off. Hong decides to escape and Gil to stay. Boon-Yi's villagers are bringing in reports and they discover Hong's plan to escape in a small smuggler's boat. There he is met by his servant Dae Geun and arrested by General Jo and Officer Nam.

The tribunal soldiers find Gil in the giseang house. He is exhausted from killing about thirty of them, saying, "This is why you should never skip breakfast!" haha. Next we see him eating at a marketplace surrounded by about fifteen dead bodies. Soldiers collect around him, waiting for greater numbers, when Yi Bang-Ji arrives and challenges him.

Historical note: Jo Min-Soo was a general who supported General Yi at the Yalu River and General Choi in enthroning King U's son.

Episode 18

We pick up with Yi Bang-Ji's challenge and the epic sword fight with sweeping leaps on wires and twirls and kicks in the air. Bang-Ji knocks Gil's sword out of his hand but he pulls a couple of  longknives out of his robe. In the end Bang-Ji wins and the townspeople laugh and cheer.

Prime Minister Lee gets house arrest and Minister Hong and a few others get executed. In the crowd Boon-Yi recognizes Hong's servant Dae Geun as the man who raped Yoon-Hee and follows him to General Jo's house. Bang-Won goes home and chops down the tree he planted for Minister Hong.

Moo-Hyul tells Bang-Won that he wants to protect him for making the people smile. Ah what a puppy...enjoy it, it won't last forever.

Sambong asks General Yi to accept Lee's followers so he can oppose General Choi, who has a lot of land and will not like their reform ideas. Meantime Lee is telling General Choi that Yi will attack him in the end.
Eyeliner Monk Jukryeong, in jail for helping Hong, gets a visit from an old lady claiming to be his mother who brings him orders with the red leaf-and-sword stamp. Then he asks to see General Choi and sells him his logbook telling about things like the conspiracy to pass the border plan. Choi is furious and demands General Yi choose Sambong or him. Yi stands with Sambong.

Historical note: Gil Tae-Mi was a military officer before he was a government minister, but he was not a noted swordfighter. Choi and Yi had fought pirates together but Sambong and Yi were pretty tight friends.

Chapter 19

General Choi has a meeting at the gisaeng house with a Yuan merchant who has a very skilled bodyguard, and everyone else is refused entry.

Prime Minister Lee is exiled to his hometown and taken away in a jail cart. A man who looks like the one who brought him the note about King Gongmin's death drops him another one with the same leaf-and-sword stamp.

We get to meet King U, who is a complete jerk, terrorizing some palace ladies trying to play music. General Choi tries to moderate him, and then asks for help in a plan to increase power. The Ming have demanded the return of the land that Gongmin had gotten back from them. General Choi and the king go on a hunting trip with a ton of soldiers.

Sambong tricks Madam Cho into telling them that Eyeliner Monk was the person who set up the meeting with Choi and the Yuan merchant and that something is happening on the seventh day. Meantime, Bang-Won traces a cart of gold from Hong's house to Biguk temple, where they are caught and Boon-Yi has an expression. Monk Jukryong tells them the gold was traded for water buffalo horns, which are used in making bows, and the king is going to the Yalu River. They realize the king is going to attack Ming.

Historical note: Soldiers were really gathered on the excuse of going on a hunt. King U is supposed to have tried to be a good king at first, but gave up and fell into delinquincy when he couldn't counter the nobles who ran the government.

Chapter 20

General Yi argues against the king's ruinous plan to attack Liaodong, the closest part of Ming. The king and General Choi are unswayed; in fact, Choi has already killed the Ming envoys. He orders 50,000 men conscripted for the campaign.

Yi asks Sambong for advice and is told: revolution. They will arrest Choi and get the king to sign a retraction. Bang-Ji's men are posted near Choi's house, Bang-Won's and Officer Nam's near his allies, Young-Gyu will open the palace gate to Yi Ji-Ran's men, and the villagers watch to report any movement to Boon-Yi. The whole thing will depend on General Yi's decision; if he says Go, a black horse will run. If it is No Go, it will be a white horse. They are disappointed when Shin-Jeok rides the white horse.

We get an amazing scene of the  army cheering General Choi as Generals Yi and Jo look on. Choi ends up staying with the king however, and the other two head north. Choi orders the Yi family held as hostages and Bang-Woo and Bang-Gwa to stay with the king.

The army gets bogged down at the Yalu river because of the rains and flooding. Many soldiers die trying to construct a bridge, some getting sick and others running away. A group of deserters is brought to General Yi for execution, but one of the officers refuses to do it. He had been one of the fake Japanese pirates captured back in Episode 8 who had joined Yi's army for a chance to protect his people from invaders. He would rather get killed himself than rob 100,000 parents of their sons. The General decides to protect the citizens from the king.

Historical note: The Liaodong expedition was in the summer of 1388 during the monsoon season, but it was filmed in the winter. General Choi didn't go because King Gongmin had been killed when Choi was away, and King U was afraid of the same thing. The white/black horse plot was fiction.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Synopsis: Episodes 11-15

Episode 11:

 Prime Minister Lee gets back at Ministers Hong and Gil with some nicely placed forgeries and ends up arresting Bang-Won for secretly meeting with Hong. They torture him and he holds up mainly because he doesn't want to be like Minister Hong, who caved immediately.

Bang-Gwa is sent to the capital with their father's refutation of the border plan, but Bang-Woo doesn't use it. He decides that arresting one of them is an act of war against their family.

Boon-Yi asks Minister Hong for help and he lets her visit Bang-Won after the first day of torture. She takes food. Minister Lee plants another forgery on Bang-Won but Sambong sends Yoon-Hee to replace it with the one Ddang-Sae wrote about killing Baek-Yoon. Now all the ministers worry that General Yi will be down on them with his army.

Speaking of whom, he is busy at the moment turning back an invasion, but the next thing on his agenda is getting his kid back.

Historical note: In August 1383 the Jurchen chief Hibaldo, allied with Ming, invaded Goryeo and was winning until General Yi arrived. Hibaldo escaped but most of his men were killed.

Episode 12

While the ministers plot against each other, Officer Nam Eun is assigned to conduct the investigation (read: torture) of Bang-Won. Everyone thinks Nam will be fair because he hates the Prime Minister, but they are secretly accomplices.

Madam Cho sends her head ninja kunoichi to kill Yak San, the man who planted the letter in Bang-Won's room. She fights Eyeliner Monk's men and then Bang-Woo. He arrests Yak San and sends him to be interrogated by Officer Nam as well. Nam hears the confession and reports to PM Lee.

Moo-Hyul brings his family to live in town, including ex-swordmaster Hong who is now the family servant, paying back all he swindled from them.

PM Lee's people pretend to let Yak San escape and then shoot him. But surprise: he has armor and Moo-Hyul helps him get away. Meantime Officer Nam tells Bang-Won his father died, which makes him nearly hopeless. Until Nam says it was a siege. Bang-Won isn't fooled because his father never holds out in a fort but always attacks.

Yi Seong-gye shows up to first, order PM Lee to let his kid go; second, to appear at the not-so-secret cave and tell Sambong that he's ready to work together; and third, spring Yak-San on the parliament to prove his kid is innocent.

Bang-Won is taken from prison with a bag over his head and released to find Officer Nam and Sambong  together. Surprise again: the man who tortured him is on their side and they have to work together.

Historical note:  Nam Eun was a real person who helped found the Joseon dyansty.

Episode 13

Searching for the mystery fighter who rescued Boon-Yi from Eyeliner Monk, Gil Tae-Mi visits the acting troupe. Gab-Boon recognizes him though, so another actor meets him as Ddang-Sae watches.

Boon-Yi takes Bang-Won to a doctor. When he hugs her she says she hasn't got feeings for him. In reality she knows their class status is too far apart.

General Yi breaks ties with Minister Hong, feeling that he no longer owes him for helping pass the border plan. Prime Minister Lee is deposed, which Sambong thinks was a big mistake for Hong. Hong then asks the wealthy Haedonggap clan to be allies.

 At this point we meet Min Je (pen name Eoeun), the head of that clan, and his daughter Da-Kyung. She tells her father Hong blew it because PM Lee protected him from General Choi. Ooh...she's as smart as Sambong!

Ddang-Sae and Gab-Boon try to leave the city but Eyeliner Monk's men find them and use a paralyzing dart. Ddang-Sae hides in the gibang, where he overhears Madam Cho instructing her kunoichi. He recognizes Yoon-Hee there and when the drug wears off, trails her to a meeting with Sambong. He confronts her with being a double spy and she confronts him with being Venomous Magpie.

Historical note: It was considered disrespectful to call a high noble by his real name so pen names were often used. Da-Kyung is Lady Min, who will become queen of Joseon. No one kept records of women's names in those days, so the writers made one up.

Episode 14

Sambong decides he needs the support of Haedonggap clan and sends Poeun to talk them over. But while he is there, Madam Cho arrives with a marriage offer from Minister Hong.

Ddang-Sae and Gap-Boon argue because it's dangerous to stay in town and he's decided to stay and help Yoon-Hee.

Bang-Won visits the Min family to offer an alliance. When Da-Kyung refuses, he asks if they are afraid of Hong, and suggests a way to get out of the marriage. The next time Minister Hong comes, Min Je is busy yelling at his daughter for seeing a man secretly, and the marriage is called off.

Yoon-Hee reports to Madam Cho that she's joined Sambong's spy group. Officer Nam catches her and takes her to Sambong, where Ddang-Sae overhears them talking. He urges Yoon-Hee to go away from it all and is stunned to hear his sister is a spy too. He leaves a letter for her, but Bang-Won intercepts and is amazed that Venomous Magpie is Boon-Yi's brother.

Yoon-Hee sees a famous assassin in town and is afraid he's after Sambong, at a secret meeting with General Yi. She sends out an alarm. Ddang-Sae shows up and tells Sambong to leave his sister alone, but as he is leaving he feels the aura of the assassin. Bang-Won and Moo-Hyul race to the scene as the General calls out his men.

Historical note: Haedong is an old name for Korea. Gap means noble. They are the oldest noble clans, who have been around for about 700 years, ever since the Silla kingdom.

Episode 15

The assassin kills the guards but Yoon-Hee arrives to throw chalk in his face and pull Sambong away. When the assassin finds them she fights back with a sword and then Ddang-Sae engages him. A second assassin attacks, Yoon-Hee breaks a stale-mate with a hair-pin, and Moo-Hyul joins the fray. He plants himself in the earth and slices a third attacker out of the air. They kill two assassins and the General arrives in time to shoot the other in the foot. It's great to have a fight in the daytime so you can see what's going on.

We get a tearful brother-sister-childhood friend reunion. The General accepts Ddong-Sae as his son, gives him the name Yi Bang-Ji, and assigns him as Sambong's bodyguard.

Bang-Won and Da-Kyung marry. She tells him she won't sleep with him until his family proves successful. General Choi warns that it will be hard to get that clan to help with politics, which proves true.

Yi Bang-Ji practices his moves, remembering his teacher saying that if you are fast enough blood doesn't stay on the sword, and that he will improve to match anyone he fights against. Well, he fought Gil Tae-Mi. He sends Moo-Hyul to get Gab-Boon and all his stuff. Gil Tae-Mi sees Moo-Hyul strutting around in the Venemous Magpie outfit and takes him on in a little fight. He knows immediately he's not the real Magpie and wonders if this is a new fashion trend? Haha.

Minister Hong confiscates some of the Min family land and breaks ancestral tablets. But it's a trap. When the owner, Jo Ban, retaliates, he is captured and falsely accused of treason.

Historical note: The General gives Ddang-Sae the family name (Yi), the generation name for brothers and cousins (Bang), and a given name with the same meaning (land). Jo Ban is a real person who became a diplomat and a translator for Bang-Won.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Summary: Episodes 6-10

Episode 6

Bang-Won tries to get Boon-Yi to escape before the guards catch her for setting fire to the granary. But Sambong told her if she ever needed to find him, to go to a man who sells wooden plates in the market. (in Episode 2 he tied up Ddang-Sae in the cabin.)  Bang-Won recognizes her little wooden figurine and follows her to find out who owns that secret cave.

Moo-Hyul confronts Master Hong with lying in order to continue being paid for teaching. He admits it and Grandma tells Moo-Hyul to go out and get a reputation so he can earn money. He goes to the market and sees Boon-Yi. Who he has a crush on.

Gab-Boon asks her old beggar leader how to find Sambong. He says ask the guy who sells wooden plates. Hong In-Bang asks Eyeliner Monk how to find Sambong and gets the same answer.

Everyone converges on the poor guy who is attacked but gets away. Boon-Yi walks into his shop and is bagged up and delivered to Biguk Temple. Seen by Bang-Wan and Ddang-Sae.  Eyeliner Monk asks her about a coded message on a leather strip. Minister Hong comes to question her but gets sidetracked reminding Bang-Won about tormenting him when he was a student. There is a pretty good fight when Ddang-Sae arrives, highlighted by his jump from a pagoda shrine 15 feet in the air to attack Eyeliner. While all this is going on Moo-Hyul makes off with Boon-Yi as slick as you please.

Bang-Won goes back to the market where the wooden plate guy sees that he has a wooden figurine and gives him another coded message strip before expiring. We watch as Bang-Won and Boon-Yi separately pull a core out of the figurine and wrap the leather strip around it. The letters line up down the stick and tell them to go to Hamju and follow Yi Seong-Gye.

Historical note: Matching rods made to use with coded messages strips were called scytale (rhymes with Italy) and used in ancient Greece.

Episode 7

Boon-Yi brings Moo-Hul to Hamju, tells the all too common tale of losing her home to rich officials, and gets admitted to the camp. Bang-Won comes a little later and finds that a letter advocating protecting the border and gathering people is circulating there. He runs across his old school friend Hao Kang, now called Lee Shin-Jeok, and knows he's behind the letter.

Shin-Jeok kidnaps Boon-Yi (how many times is this?) pulls out her wooden figurine and accuses her as a spy. She just asks to see Sambong pronto and shows that Shin-Jeok has a figurine hanging around his neck too. This is all watched by Bang-Won and spies of Minister Hong who followed her here.

Madam Cho of the gisaeng house pools information with Monk Eyeliner to realize there is a new secret organization somewhere and sends out her lady ninjas. Minister Hong and Gil Tae-Mi plot against Prime Minister Lee.  Lee listens to a fortuneteller who tells him his path is in the northeast (where Hamju is).

Shin-Jeok agrees to bring the secret leader if Bang-Won brings his father. They both come alone however, and get kidnapped by Minister Hong's spies. Moo-Hyul rescues Bang-Won again and piggybacks him (he's wounded) home in time to see Sambong show up and stop the General from executing Boon-Yi.

Historical note: Women ninjas called kunoichi existed in Japan in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were primarily used in espionage, including posing as maids and geishas.

Episode 8

Sambong tells General Yi that he has been sending people to him to secure the border and to show  how cruelly the government treats the commoners. Shin-Jeok (Hao Kang) and several others corroborate this. In a flashback we see that the General captured fake Japanese pirates, and when they told him that the government  had taken everything from them, he added them to his own army.

Sambong says he can tell the General's prime concern is to protect the people, and that can't happen as long as the three corrupt ministers are running things. They need a new government and General Yi needs to be the new king.

Bang-Won has overheard the whole thing and tries to encourage his father. When that goes nowhere he finds the paper about stabilizing the border, stamps it with his father's seal, and sends Shin-Jeok to Gaegyeong with it. Boon-Yi had caught Bang-Won with the stamp and he ties her up until she promises to not give him away.

General Choi Young orders Prime Minister Lee to lower the taxes, but he can't get the Evil Three to do it until he suggests bringing General Yi into the government. Since that worked so well, the prime minister rewards his fortuneteller. Minister Hong has Eyeliner Monk question this fortuneteller, and she tells them she is an actress hired by Sambong. She has a badly scarred face, but when she leaves she pulls off her latex appliance and we see she is Yoon-Hee. Sambong meets with Minister Hong and gets him to conspire against the prime minister.

Historical note: Pirates from outlying Japanese islands like Tsushima attacked Korea many times beginning about 1350, 175 raids being recorded from 1376 to 1385.

Episode 9 

After Yoon-Hee reports to Sambong she reports to her other boss, Madam Cho. She has a fake name here and doesn't tell Madam Cho everything.

Flashback to that meeting between Sambong and Minister Hong. He told Hong to side with Gil Tae-Mi and General Yi and drop Prime Minister Lee and General Choi.  General Yi would go along if the border stabilization plan passes parliament.

Sambong visits Boon-yi's people and has them complain to General Choi that their land had been taken away and registered to Hong's servant instead of the government. A furious General Choi arrests the servants. Hong realizes he's in trouble.

Now Sambong sends Yoon-Hee to pose as a noblewoman and hire Ddang-Sae's acting troupe to put on a a play about Gil Tae-Mi killing Baek Yoon. This happened back in Episode 4 but it was Ddang-Sae who'd done it. He recognizes her but she tells him to pretend he doesn't.

Minister Hong sends Eyeliner Monk to Hamju to ask what reward he will get if the border stabilization plan passes. When the General realizes what happened with the seal he arrests the monk and sends son #2 to Gaegyeong with a note that he did not send in the border proposal. Bang-Won chases down Bang-gwa and ties him to a tree.

The play starts such rumors that General Choi decides to push Hong and Gil out of power, but Prime Minister Lee wants to save his longtime friend Gil. He tells Gil to join them against Hong, but Gil decides they will give up half their assets instead and lie low for a while.

Meantime Ddang-Sae has seen his desolate home town and come for revenge against Hong. Gil Tae-Mi duels him and it's not till Madam Cho's ninja girls pitch in that Ddang-Sae runs off. But Hong and Gil think Prime Minister Lee had sent the assassin, and they vote against Lee and for the border plan.

Historical note: In 1383 General Yi defeated the Mongol invaders (Hobaldo in Episode 11), met Sambong, and submitted the border plan. Bang-Won using the seal was fiction.

Episode 10

Now that the border plan has passed, Bang-Won hopes that reform will come soon. Prime Minister Lee goes to Madam Cho to figure out why it passed. He yells at Gil Tae-Mi for voting for it, and Gil just growls back that he shouldn't have sent an assassin.

The General is determined to revoke the border plan even though Ji-Ran, his second in command, wants to let it stand. He knows it means he is indebted to Hong now. Boon-Yi's villagers and Moo-Hyul's family are admitted to the camp.

Yoon-Hee finds another letter from Ddang-Sae in the not-so-secret cave. Sambong is very worried about who this unknown assassin is and who is behind him. Then we get the scene from the first of the drama where Bang-Won waits in the cave for Sambong to show up and Ddang-Sae turns out to be there as well. Dang-Sae states his opposition to a plan that will get a lot of commoners killed, and stalks out. Yoon-Hee follows him and realizes that he is the assassin.

Sambong berates Bong-Won for forging the stamp because it destroyed the trust he wanted to build with the General. He relates how destructive it was once when a traitor forged an order from the king. He kicks Bang-Won out, but Bang-Won vows to do better and to return.

Historical note: Yi Ji-Ran was originally a Jurchen warrior named Kurun Turan Timur. Yi Seung-Gye gave him a new name when they became "sworn brothers."

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Six Flying Dragons Summary Episodes 1-5

We recently started watching the 50-episode saguk Six Flying Dragons. It is so good, and also so complicated, that it needs an episode summary to keep track of events. The complete recaps can be found at if you would like the detailed version. Most of the historical notes are from a tumblr blog called Six Flying Dragons at

The basic story is that General Yi (pronounced ee) overthrows Goryeo (medieval Korea) to become the first king of Joseon in 1392 AD. It is a prequel to Tree With Deep Roots, which is about Joseon's most famous king, the grandson of General Yi.

The Six Dragons:

General Yi Seong-Gye (lower row, far right): a respected general with a dark secret. Northern Goryeo had been taken over by the Mongols. His family, ethnic Koreans, remained there as minor officials serving the Mongols, but were turncoats who helped Goryeo recapture the territory.

Yi Bang-Won (upper left): the ambitious fifth son of the general, a prime mover who helps his father become king and then fights his brothers for the throne.

Jung Do-Jeon (upper right): a noted scholar with the pen name Sambong, the mastermind behind the revolution and the form the new government would take.

Moo-Hyul (lower left): a fictional character who becomes Yi Bang-Won's bodyguard and then the bodyguard of his son in Tree With Deep Roots.

Boon-Yi (lower row, second from left): fictional character; a peasant woman whose family was destroyed by corrupt Goryeo officials; she is in Jung Do Jeon's secret group plotting revolution.

Ddang-Sae (lower row, third from left): fictional character; Boon-yi's brother, he becomes the fastest swordsman in the country. General Yi gives him the name of Yi Bang-Ji. He is also seen in TWDR.

Episode 1

We begin with a peek at Episode 10 which introduces three of the dragons. Sambong steals food from a peasant (that tells us a lot about him right there) and then enters his secret cave to find Bang-Won and Ddang-Sae already there.

We then go back in time to begin the story with 12-year-old Bang-Won, his older brother Bang-Gwa, and the General chasing down a spy. The spy had a letter bearing a stamp with a pattern like leaves with a sword, which they think is from Prime Minister Lee. Bang-Won grows up fast when he sees how his idolized father punishes the prisoner.

Next we meet the main villains. Prime Minister Lee In-Gyeom is at a bathhouse with his crony Baek Yoon when Gil Tae-Mi (eyeshadow guy) brings news that General Yi is being made a chancellor and coming to the capital city of Gaegyeong. Prime Minister Lee decides to prevent it.

Then we skip to Sungkyunkwan University where two teachers, Jung Mong-Joo (pen name Poeun) and Hong In-Bang cheer to hear that the general is coming. Prime Minister Lee supports the Mongols against the Ming Chinese, but that would cause the Ming to attack Goryeo. The General could prevent a war.

Bang-Won comes to Gaegyeong and falls afoul of some beggar kids, including Boon-Yi and Ddang-Sae. They are searching for their mother, who was kidnapped by a man with a leaf-and-sword tattoo. Their only other clue is a song she used to sing which nobody else seems to know. Ddang-Sae sees one of Bang-Won's guards with a letter having that stamp and they accuse him. With another friend, Gap-Boon, they help Bang-Won break into the Prime Minister's house to get that letter. They get locked into a storage room, but Bang-Won gets caught and thrown out.

The letter turns out to be an account of how the Yi's turned on their Mongol friends. When Prime Minister Lee gives a dinner for General Yi, he has some actors portray this story and then is able to blackmail the General into refusing the appointment and going home.

Historical note: Yi Seong-Gye (born 1335), Bang-Gwa (born 1357), and Bang-Won (born1367) became the first three kings of Joseon.  Poeun and Baek Yoon are historical figures, and Lee In-Gyeom, Gil Tae-Mi, and Hong In-Bang are based on real officials Lee In-Im, Im Gyeon-Mi, and Yeom Heung-Bang. General Yi opened the gate but did not really shoot the Mongol friend.

Episode 2

We find out that the leaf stamp does not belong to Prime Minister Lee. He has seen that stamp before though, on a letter warning him that King Gongmin had been killed.

Boon-Yi and Ddang-Sae escape the storage room and hide in a cart. Unfortunately it belongs to the acting troupe, which leaves with the two kids still inside. During the night the actors are run off by a masked swordsman. Surprise, it's Sambong! He searches for something inside one of the carts until teacher Hong In-Bang shows up. Dang-Sae overhears the plan to kill Baek Yoon so that other corrupt ministers would suspect each other and fight it out. Ddang-Sae follows Sambong to his secret cave, but when he returns to get his sister he is captured and tied up in a forest cabin.

Hong-In Bang gathers the other scholars to protest the Yuan alliance. He thinks Sambong's plan is to kill the envoy.  Prime Minister Lee's plan is for Eyeshadow Guy to impersonate the envoy and not have any Yuans there at all. Sambong gets tied up and left in the same cabin Ddang-Sae is in.

Boon-Yi has waked up and followed her brother to the cabin, and then gone for help. Bang-Won's bodyguard Jo Young-Gyoo makes short work of a couple of men at the door and sets Sambang free when he promises to stop the war.

At the city gate, scholars are protesting alliance with Yuan. A group of riders comes up the road and one with a large veil dismounts and goes in through the gate. Sambong walks up as the greeter, seems to stab the envoy and is knocked down. But another surprise! When Eyeshadow Guy takes off his veil to say he knew of this plot and has foiled it, Sambong reveals that his weapon is really a stick of taffy. The guards try to round up the protesters, the protesters resist, and Sambong starts singing a song that makes Ddang-Sae perk up. It's the one sung by his mother that no one else knows.

Historical note: King Gongmin was killed in 1374 and his 11-year-old son was made king by Minister Lee. Sambong was appointed greeter in 1375, threatened to kill the envoy, and was exiled for four years.

Episode 3

Sambong gets beat up a little and then Eyeshadow Guy tortures him with wet paper on his face.

Bang-Woo enrolls at Sungkyunkwan, but the very day he shows up the teachers are arrested. Hong In-Bang tells the students to not give up and to study their Mencius, which however gets banned.

Sambong is exiled, and as a group of guards are taking him through the forest in a jail wagon, Boon-Yi and Ddang-Sae run up calling him daddy and asking about the song. Sambong says it was written by King Gongmin and only he, Queen Noguk, and a few others would know it. He recognizes their mother's name (Yeon-Hyang), but says a maid of the queen by that name died 18 years ago. It doesn't seem to fit. Boon-yi goes home in case their mother returns, but Ddang-Sae stays.

Bang-Won plants a tree for Prime Minister Lee that he can chop down when he defeats him. He becomes friends with an older student named Heo Kang, but students start dropping out.  Eyeshadow's son Gil Yoo is part of a gang that  threatens other students with burning their Mencius books or getting their forehead tattooed. Bang-Won is one of the victims.

Teacher Hong In-Bang returns; he was tortured and caved immediately. To make sure he's on the powerful side after this, he helps Gil Tae-Mi chouse other people out of their land. When Heo Kang puts up a poster protesting the bullies,  Hong sends an assassin to kill three of them. The assassin finds them already dead, but Heo Kang is arrested and his father has to give half his land to Gil Tae-Mi to get him out of jail. Hong and Gil become in-laws.

Bang-Won had come home late and bloody that night, but told his bodyguard, Young-Gyoo, that it wasn't his own blood. You wonder how that kid could account for three older boys, but after that Young-Gyoo found three more trees that had been planted and destroyed.  In a confrontation with Hong, Bang-Won asserts, "I may not be good, but at least I am just."

Historical note: Sungkyunkwan was founded in 992 in Gaegyong and relocated to Seoul in 1398. The song was not historical; just in the drama. Heo Kang was a real person and became a civil servant.

Episode 4

Ddang-Sae discovers that Queen Noguk had a bodyguard as well as the maid Yeon-Hyang that were always with her. He was Gil Seon-Mi, the twin brother of Gil Tae-Mi. When found, Gil Seon-Mi warns Ddang-Sae that his mother had made a mistake which had cost the life of Queen Noguk so he should forget about her and never mention her name again.

A white-haired Chinese-speaking swordmaster  (Jang Sam-Bong) with a quarterstaff appears and trades blows with Gil Seon-Mi. He is looking for an expert who killed a student of his. Gil Seon-Mi tells him his best guess (Cheok Sa-Kwang) in exchange for taking care of Ddong-Sae. Master Jang agrees but Ddong-Sae disappears on him.

We take time out to meet Moo-Hyul killing a wild boar. He is one of nine kids his grandmother is raising, and she takes the boar to bribe Master Hong to teach him. Though not very good himself, he has taught many famous swordsmen.

Ddang-Sae makes it home to enjoy a brief happy time with his sister and the cutest girl of the village, Yoon-Hee, but it is cut short by a gang of thugs who arrive to take over. Hong In-Bang has become a government minister and is raising money to fight Japanese pirates by increasing taxes and confiscating land. The villagers fight back and Yoon-Hee is raped.  Boon-Yi blames her brother for not resisting, and he runs off to throw himself over a cliff. Master Jang sees him from a distance and reaching the cliff miraculously fast, keeps him from falling and promises to make him strong.

Six years pass. We see Bang-Won, now an adult, sitting morosely on a rooftop. He witnesses a miraculously fast swordsman in black with patterned white trim killing first a guard and then Baek Yoon. Bang-Won trails him up a canyon, where he leaves a message on a door hidden by vines. He is Ddang-Sae, and his note is for Sambang informing him that he has killed Baek Yoon as per plan and  who should he kill next? Presently Bang-Won opens the door, stepping on a small wooden soldier, and finds a cave full of bookshelves and a window with a view of the capital city in the valley below.

Historical note: Queen Noguk died in childbirth in 1356. The government did indeed confiscate commoners' land to give to the nobles in exchange for fighting off the pirates.

Episode 5

In the cave Bang-won finds a map renaming the country and papers outlining reform and plotting peaceful revolution.

The murder of Baek Yoon creates a furor, which Hong In-Bang remembers had been Sambong's plot. He goes to Monk Yuk-Ryeong (Eyeliner Monk) for information, and General Choi Young goes to the madam of the giseang house, Cho Young, but no one knows who the culprit is. Hong In-Bang comes out of it very well, as the leader of Baek Yoon's old faction.

Gil Tae-Mi, investigating the murder, hears that there were three sword hits. His son guesses that it might be Venomous Magpie, who is rumored to kill dozens of Japanese pirates all by himself.

A girl sitting on the stairs in the marketplace begins to sing. She is Gap-Boon, who helped break into Minister Lee's house back in episode 1. A fascinated Moo-Hyul stops to listen, and Bang-Won and his bodyguard Young-Gyoo show up next. A masked actor tells the story of the Magpie, who wears black with white trim. When the show is over and Gap-Boon leaves, some thugs take her money. She appeals to Moo-Hyul for help and he defeats all of them, including a sword fighter who comes out, keeping his wooden name tag. Young-Goo asks the actor about the Magpie and though he claims to only know rumor, when he washes his face we see he is Ddang-Sae.

Meanwhile Sambong has returned from exile and visited Boon-Yi. He advises her to clear forested land in the hills and farm it secretly and gives her one of the little wooden soldiers. Just as the villagers are harvesting their first crop the thugs arrive, taking all the produce and killing half the people. And to make matters worse, Japanese pirates arrive and kidnap the rest. The next day Moo-Hyul is practicing his moves when he sees the pirates go by with people in gunny sacks over their shoulders.

That night as Bang-Won and Young-Gyoo are looking for pirates (to try and meet the Magpie) they come across the kidnappers with Moo-Hyul sneaking around behind. Bang-Won gives his sword to Moo-Hul, and at one point when he finds himself greatly outnumbered he cleverly tries to turn the pirates against each other. This makes me wonder if that is what he did with the three bullies when he was 12. The pirates turn out to be Koreans disguised as Japanese, and Moo-Hyul and Young-Gyu beat them handily. One of them exclaims that Moo-Hyul's name tag indicates an elite warrior group, so he knows that his teacher, who had been telling him he wasn't good enough yet, has been lying to him. The next day, after burying their dead, Boon-Yi goes into town and burns the government storehouse where all the peasants' grain is stored.

Historical note: When Taejong became king he reformed land taxation and discovered there was a lot of this hidden land.