Thoughts on Iljimae’s Ending
I was going to write out all my thoughts on the ending of Iljimae, but then life intervened. Anyway, I sit here with sore muscles to give you my take on what happened and why – disclaimer to tell you that you may not agree with or like what I say, but I am basing it on what happened.
In short, Iljimae is alive; Eun Chae just returned from exile in Jeju with her dad; Bong Soon is wandering around the country; Dani and Kyum’s mother are raising Ketong together with Yong visiting every now and then; the rest of the neighbourhood, which includes Eun Chae’s servant, helps when they can – but Iljimae goes deep underground to avoid getting people he cares about into trouble; Shi Hoo teaches kids martial arts and is happy; Daeshi found his dad. Also, the king is crazy.
When we come to the end, Iljimae is starting up his stealing again.
It’s too bad they didn’t have enough time to film the ending fully – according to the PD, they were filming the last episode on the day it was airing, and had no choice but to supplement the end with scenes from episode one. Aww.
First, who is Ketong?
Well, easiest question first. Ketong is the child of Dani and Swe Dol (R.I.P.). Remember when Swe Dol nearly named Yong ‘Ketong’ instead? Dani glared him down. In her beloved husband’s memory, she gives her child a name he’d chosen for another son that he gave his life for. He says he’s five because the Koreans count age starting from 1, not 0. He’s missing a front teeth not because the writers didn’t take science in high school, but because he’s probably old enough to be losing baby teeth now.
How do we know Yong is at least visiting his two mommies?
One word: Ketong. Honestly, this kid gives it away in so many ways. Living with two women, I think it would be very hard for a four-year-old to develop such outrageous mannerisms unless he had someone he admired to copy from. When Bong Soon mentioned ‘Yong’, he showed that he was familiar with someone named Yong, which might just have been his mothers telling him about his older brother. However, that doesn’t account for his slip with the random bystander at Daeshi’s performance troupe – he actually says he couldn’t memorize his version of what happened to Iljimae, but why would he need to, unless he’s covering up for Yong, in collusion with the adults? Also, his more accurate knowledge of Iljimae’s activities (to the annoyance of the shoemaker’s dad) indicates that someone’s been showing off his exploits.
By extension, Shim Deok, Daeshi, the shoemaker, Eun Chae’s servant, the mafia dude, Eun Chae’s servant’s dad all know Yong’s alive. (Awkward moments give them away.) They actually knew who the real Iljimae was, so if something happened to him, they would know the truth too. The only reason they would spread such outrageous rumours would be if they knew they were lying. And the only reason that fits would be Yong’s desire to make sure people around him weren’t being hurt for knowing who he is.
Who are the shoes for?
According to the director/producer, one pair is for Kunghe, and another pair is for Iljimae. So we know our dude is probably living on the island with Kunghe, with the blessing of Shim Deok (except when the gisaeng, Myeong something, comes over). The shoes aren’t for Bong Soon, unfortunately, because if you noticed, Kunghe has a pair that are exactly like the ones the shoemaker delivered this time but Bong Soon has shoes made of straw, customary of travelers at that time.
Which leads us to the topic of Bong Soon… what happened to her?
From her clothes, she’s dressed as a boy, and a traveler, by her shoes. She was probably unable to resolve her issues with Kunghe in the end and opted for wandering around and not seeing him. Remember when she was about to stab Kunghe? She apologized that she would not be able to go with Yong to wherever he was going to take her. I’m guessing she knew she couldn’t stay near Kunghe and gave Yong up too, especially as he was in love with someone else. I feel so bad. Where is our cheerful happy girl?
Dani’s expression upon meeting her suggest that they haven’t seen each other in a while. Furthermore, Dani’s really odd expression indicates that Bong Soon probably doesn’t know Yong is alive. Sadly, she isn’t reconciled with Kunghe either, or they would have shown that, or at least given hints.
Why does Shi Hoo say that not giving up the proof would protect those his brother wants to protect?
Probably Shi Hoo has as much faith in his government as I do in mine, and knows that handing over the proof will mean his death and everyone else’s, if not at the crazy king’s hand, then at the hand of some unscrupulous noble. Thus, having it keeps him safe, and it gives Yong the freedom to keep being Iljimae. (Imagine the most optimistic outcome, where he’s recognized as a noble, how much trouble he would have being Iljimae. Besides, we know his father’s name isn’t cleared because the king is nervous over not having kept his promise.)
Does Eun Chae know who Iljimae is?
Yes. Even as Yong. Why? Besides the whole thing in 19 when she sensed something about Yong, when her servant mentions her husband’s first love, Eun Chae is reminded of her own first love, and she doesn’t ask about Iljimae, she asks about ‘that child’, who is Yong. When her servant is slow to come up with a response, Eun Chae shows signs of worry. Later, she goes to the tree and recalls Kyum in the same time as she does Yong. I’d say that’s enough proof for us. Unfortunately, I think at this point Eun Chae believes Iljimae is dead, though with his latest raid on the palace, she won’t think that for long.
Finally, the big question, is Iljimae alive?
YES YES YES!
Besides the PD saying that Iljimae was slashed by his own sword and fell down due to the force of the blow, and that Kunghe’s order has a pair of shoes for him, the beginning and end quite obviously show he is alive. Just as Hong Gil Dong unequivocally indicated their main characters’ deaths, Iljimae shows him in action once more.
I think I’m still going to write my own version though…