Alternative title : "Il Ji-Mae: The Phantom Thief"
On a night when the apricot tree blossoms were in full bloom, young Gyum (actor Yeo Jin-gu) witnessed the death of his father. The black emblem engraved on the sword shined under the moonlight... His father’s blood was splattered on the apricot tree blossoms... After that night, Gyeom’s life became a wretched existence. He changed his name to Yong, living as a beggar in the city streets.
One day, Yong (actor Lee Joon-ki) remembered his past when he was being chased by a group 13 years ago (1644. 22nd year of King In-jo’s reign). Thoughts of revenge didn’t occur to him. His dreams were to be reunited with his mother and sister, recover his family home, and live with his family again. But when he finally met his sister again, she was executed in front of him. Revenge was all he wanted after that. Yong has a tattoo of the black emblem, which he saw on the sword that killed his father, engraved on his chest.
With the skills he learned from his foster father, who was a small-time thief, he obtained information from the nobles by committing his first break-in. But he left behind a red apricot tree blossom by accident. When the officials found this evidence, people began calling him the “Iljimae” robber. Yong discovered the existence of a secret list, with the names of all the members of the secret Chunwoo Association while slipping into a nobleman’s home in search of the sword with the black emblem. Yong recalled that his father was a member of the secret Chunwoo association. He then decided to use Eun-chae (actress Han Hyo-ju) to obtain the full list. Under his meticulous plan, Iljimae approached Eun-chae. Eun-chae fell into love with Iljimae and the feelings became mutual but he kept his focus on getting revenge and holding back on telling the truth to Eun-chae.
The royal court was deploying all their forces to capture Iljimae. Shi-hoo (actor Park Shi-hoo) failed to capture Iljimae twice during a stakeout. But Iljimae suffered a deep gash from Shi-hoo’s sword.
Bong-soon (actress Lee Young-ae) discovered Yong lying half-unconscious from his wound and she took him to her foster father Gonggal, who saves Yong’s life. After learning that Yong is Iljimae, Gonggal became Yong’s martial arts teacher.
The stories of various incidents involving Iljimae spread among the people who began to revere him as the hero of the commoners. Iljimae robbed more noblemen to the delight of the people!
Sometimes, Iljimae fought like Zorro, or used his brains like MacGyver... Royal palace prosecutor Shi-hoo became obsessed with catching Iljimae. King In-jo felt threaten by the growing reputation of Iljimae as the king of the commoners and wanted him captured at all cost.
Mysterious deaths kept occurring after the death of his father. Small nail scratches are found on the dead bodies that keep turning up. The shocking truth emerged... Who wielded the sword with the black emblem? Iljimae then bravely embarked on his final mission!