Friday, May 19, 2017

“A Tree With Deep Roots” (aka “Deep Rooted Tree”) spoiler-free synopsis by episode, Eps. 1-24





“Deep Rooted Tree” is a 2011 South Korean television series starring Jang Hyuk, Shin Se-kyung and Han Suk-kyu. The drama is based on the novel “Bboorigipeun Namoo” by Lee Jung-Myung first published in 2006.

“Tree With Deep Roots” won the Grand Prize (Daesang) in the 2011 48th Baeksang Arts Awards, SBS Drama Awards , and the 7th Seoul International Drama Awards.

During its broadcast, eleven of the drama’s episodes ranked first in the ratings, while seven episodes ranked second.

Taking its name from the poem Yongbieocheonga that says that trees with deep roots do not sway, the series tells the story of a royal guard investigating a case involving the serial murders of Jiphyeonjeon scholars in Gyeongbok Palace while King Sejong comes to create the Korean written language. (Wikipedia)

Jump to synopsis of Episode 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 17; 18; 19; 20; 21; 22; 23; 24; Historical backgrounders and other information; Free 500-plus interactive grammar and vocabulary exercises based on “A Tree With Deep Roots” and other Korean historical dramas (external link); Lessons in photography from “A Tree With Deep Roots”

How I made these synopses spoiler-free


1. I assumed that you will be reading these synopses and watching the videos chronologically.

2. I narrated the main actions in each episode without revealing the plot’s twists and turns.

3. At the beginning of each synopsis starting with Episode 2, I placed in a table some of the major twists and turns of the previous episode. But because you have already watched the video of the previous episode, they aren’t spoilers anymore.

(I used this same structure in my recaps of “Six Flying Dragons,” “Dong Yi,” “A Jewel in the Palace,” “Saimdang, Light’s Diary,” “Moonlight Drawn by Clouds.” “Rebel: Thief Who Stole People,” and “The Flower in Prison.”)

Episode 1


Royal Guard Kang Chae-yoon studies the courtyard and plans how to kill King Sejong.

Flashback ...

Ddol-bok and his feeble-minded father are both slaves of Chancellor Shim Won, the Queen’s father. As he protects his father, Ddol-bok always gets into fights with kids like himself and even with adults.

Ddol-bok’s only joy in life is being with Dahm, an intelligent girl who’s also a slave like him. They spend their time together playing word games and exchanging gifts.

The Queen pleads with King Sejong (aka Lee Do) to save her father Chancellor Shim Won from being charged with treason. But Lee Do says that he can’t do anything to save him; although his father King Taejong has abdicated, he and his trusted Minister Jo Mal-saeng still wield the real power in Joseon.

As Lee Do retreats to his private room filled with a giant mathematics puzzle, King Taejong mocks his timidity.

Lee Do secretly sends a letter for Chancellor Shim Won through a young court maid. Later, after Dahm has read the letter, Ddol-bok’s father volunteers to deliver the letter.

But as Ddol-bok’s father reaches Chancellor Shim Won and gives him the letter, the royal guards arrive and arrest them. Shim Won’s family members and his slaves, including Ddol-bok and Dahm, are thrown into jail.



Episode 2


Episode 1 recap:

The young court maid whom Lee Do sent betrays him to Minister Jo Mal-saeng.

Ddol-bok relies on Dahm’s assurance that she understands what is written in Lee Do’s letter.

In prison, Ddol-bok’s dying father gives him the letter that Chancellor Shim Won graciously wrote for him. Chancellor Shim Won himself is executed by poison.


As the Queen goes to the prison to visit her mother, the outraged prisoners stage a jailbreak. Ddol-bok and Dahm escape over the prison wall, but Dahm's father gets killed.

Lee Do and his bodyguard Moo-hyul also arrive at the prison, but he is powerless to do anything as the guards continue killing the escaping prisoners.

In the forest, Lee Do and Moo-hyul face off against King Taejong, Minister Jo Mal-saeng, and their soldiers. Lee Do angrily recites to his father the names of all those he had killed, including Jeong Do-jeon. When King Taejong refuses to back down, Lee Do orders Moo-hyul to kill everyone.

Ddol-bok finds himself in Banchon, the slave village that serves the faculty and students of Sungkyungkwan. Later, he witnesses how justice is meted out in Banchon when two erring slaves are captured and brought before the village leader.

King Taejong mobilizes the army, and, despite Minister Jo Mal-saeng’s advice, he sends Lee Do an empty lunch box — a symbolic order for Lee Do to commit suicide.



Episode 3


Episode 2 recap:

Ddol-bok blames Lee Do for his father’s death.

Gaining an insight from the lunch box, Lee Do solves the mathematics puzzle.
To everyone’s surprise, Lee Do bows before King Taejong and promises to obey everything that he orders.

Leaving politics and government to King Taejong, Lee Do says that he will spend his time from now on with scholars in the “Jiphyeonjeon” or Hall of Worthies. He says that he wants a Joseon ruled by words, not by swords. But King Taejong reminds him that the secret organization that was founded by Jeong Do-jeon (“Milbon” or Hidden Root) is still active under the leadership of his nephew Jeong Ki-joon.

Lee Do pretends not to know about Hidden Root, but later he remembers how he encountered Jeong Ki-joon years ago. King Taejong, meanwhile, remembers the cave where he found Jeong Do-jeon’s manifesto.

On the run from Minister Jo Mal-saeng and the royal guards, Jeong Ki-joon’s father Jeong Do-gwang and another man ditch their horses and hide in Banchon. But Minister Jo Mal-saeng defies Banchon’s royal status as a refuge.

In the temple, Banchon’s leader gives Jeong Do-gwang the document from Jeong Do-jeon that he has been searching for the last several years.

In the palace, Lee Do decides to defy his father and sends Moo-hyul to rescue Jeong Do-gwang.

Ddol-bok escapes from captivity, and as Banchon’s villagers pursue him, he ends up in the temple. There, he and the villagers are shocked to see dozens of armed, masked men.

Episode 4


Episode 3 recap:

Banchon’s leader gives Jeong Do-gwang the Hidden Root Scroll that will enable him to re-establish Hidden Root and be acknowledged as its leader.

As Ddol-bok escapes, he steals Jeong Do-gwang’s horse, which carries the Hidden Root Scroll.
Jeong Do-gwang is shot dead with arrows, but his companion manages to reach and inform his son Jeong Ki-joon about what happened.

Ddol-bok finds the Hidden Root Scroll but can’t read it. Later, based on what he finds at the mass graves, he thinks that Dahm is dead. He vows vengeance against Lee Do.

Years later, Ddol-bok (now named Kang Chae-yoon) becomes a soldier at the northern military outpost. Meanwhile, at the palace, King Taejong dies.

Present time ...

King Sejong (Lee Do) presides over a discussion between the ministers, led by Jo Mal-saeng, and the scholars at the Jiphyeonjeon (Hall of Worthies). Later, he’s informed by Moo-hyul that the “Scroll of Biba” has been sent by the general from the northern military outpost through his trusted soldier, Kang Chae-yoon.

In the palace, Chae-yoon immediately gets punished for bribery, and he’s brought before Moo-hyul. Enduring the punishment, he keeps notes of everything in the palace and about Moo-hyul that he can use in his plan to kill King Sejong.

That night, King Sejong finds a scholar murdered inside the Hall of Worthies and the “Scroll of Biba” missing. Chae-yoon becomes the prime suspect in the murder and is arrested.

Episode 5


Episode 4 recap:

King Sejong officially appoints Chae-yoon to investigate who murdered the scholars.

Chae-yoon boldly asks King Sejong to reward him with a drink if he solves the case.
Moo-hyul doesn’t agree with Chae-yoon's appointment and possible reward. He also notices a familiar scar on Chae-yoon’s arm.

Chae-yoon picks as his assistants for the investigation his friend from the north, Cho-tak, and the guard he met the other night, Park-po.

Moo-hyul and Chief Scholar Jung In-ji are told by Crown Prince Gwangpyeon to see King Sejong in the nursery. There, they find an empty throne, workers spraying manure all over the fields, and a man barking like a dog.

Chae-yoon and his men go to Banchon where the autopsy of the murdered scholar is being carried out by Ga Ri-on, a coroner who’s also a butcher. Later, King Sejong orders that Ga Ri-on be brought to him.

Thinking about the results of Ga Ri-on’s autopsy, Chae-yoon remembers his early days as a soldier and his martial arts master Lee Bang-ji.

Scholar Sung Sam-moon and Scholar Park Paeng-nyeon hear the rumors about the murder of their fellow scholar. Later, another scholar, Yoon-pil, goes missing.

Chae-yoon and Cho-tak chase after an intruder in the Hall of Worthies, but a masked man intervenes.

To find out what really happened to Scholar Yoon-pil, King Sejong orders court lady So-yi to go to the printing office. But while So-yi is inside the office, it explodes into flames.



Episode 6


Episode 5 recap:

A mysterious man with a fan orders the leader of Banchon village to kill Scholar Yoon-pil.

Chae-yoon saves So-yi from the fire but questions her harshly on who was the masked man inside the burning office.

Moo-hyul realizes that Chae-yoon is none other than Ddol-bok.

After So-yi regains consciousness, Chae-yoon questions her on who was the masked man inside the printing office and why he didn’t kill her. But So-yi, through writing down her answers, challenges Chae-yoon’s authority and says that he’s asking the wrong questions.

Chae-yoon goes to the burned-down printing office where he finds Ga Ri-on conducting his preliminary autopsy of Scholar Yoon-pil. Chae-yoon remarks that earth, water, and fire have been used to kill the scholars.

After realizing that Chae-yoon is actually Ddol-bok, Moo-hyul plans to kill him. He asks his subordinate to bring Chae-yoon to a deserted part of the palace, but Chae-yoon has already gone to see King Sejong, with a knife secretly hidden inside his uniform.

Later, after Moo-hyul reveals who Chae-yoon really is, King Sejong remembers the time when Queen Soheon brought So-yi into the palace and explained why she lost her voice.

King Sejong blames himself for all the deaths in the past and present. But when So-yi reassures him that it’s not his fault, he explodes in anger.

In Banchon, Ga Ri-on finds several pieces of character blocks in Scholar Yoon-pil’s throat, while Chae-yoon finds something else on the scholar’s body.

On their way back to the palace, Chae-yoon and Park-po see a nobleman who fights off several Ming warriors by using his “hopae” (identity tag).

Hopae Sool is a Korean weapon system which uses
the Hopae, or ‘Name Tag’, as a weapon.
It was originally
called Dantaebong or Bantaebong.
In Jiphyeonjeon, the scholars are wracking their brains trying to decipher what Scholar Yoon-pil’s secret message means. But then Chae-yoon arrives and demands that all the scholars must submit themselves to a complete body search.

As Chae-yoon and Park-po observe the ministers and scholars from a distance, Cho-tak comes rushing and tells them that the corpses of the scholars in Banchon have disappeared.



Episode 7


Episode 6 recap:

The man with the fan who ordered Scholar Yoon-pil’s murder is Assistant Chief Scholar Shim Jong-soo.

Scholars Paeng-nyeon and Sam-moon steal the corpses, and they’re shocked to find out that the tattoo in Scholar Yoon-pil’s body is the very same tattoo that they have.

King Sejong finds out that Scholar Yoon-pil’s secret message refers to “Milbon” (Hidden Root).
The Banchon village leader gives Assistant Chief Scholar Shim Jong-soo an order from “Bon Won” (leader of of “Milbon” or Hidden Root) to recruit the most-influential Confucian scholar in Joseon.

Minister Jo Mal-saeng leads King Sejong and Moo-hyul to the cave where Jeong Do-jeon wrote his manifesto for Hidden Root.

Following up a lead, Chae-yoon and Cho-tak go to a bookstore in Banchon. There, Chae-yoon chances upon someone he has previously met. Later, the royal guards raid the bookstore, but Banchon’s leader finds out about it. During the confrontation, Chae-yoon notices that So-yi and Scholar Jang Seong-soo are there too.

So-yi and Scholar Jang Seong-soo agree to meet at an isolated temple on Samgak mountain.

As So-yi watches him from a distance, King Sejong agonizes over Milbon, the death of the scholars, and Chae-yoon’s threat on his life. His worries increase when Jo Mal-saeng cautions him not to trust anyone, even those who are closest to him.

Right State Minister Lee Shin-juk confronts Minister Jo Mal-saeng about his meetings with King Sejong.

Chae-yoon and Cho-tak threaten the grandfather who delivered the corpses of the scholars to their families.

Scholar Jang Seong-soo is kicked out of Jiphyeonjeon for keeping and reading erotic literature. Later, at night, he goes to the temple to meet So-yi. But on his way there, Scholar Sung Sam-moon catches up with him and forces him to reveal what King Sejong ordered him to do.

Later, as So-yi is on her way to the temple, Pyung (the masked assassin from Milbon) attacks Scholar Jang Seong-soo.

Episode 8


Episode 7 recap:

The assistant in the bookstore turns out to be Pyung, the masked assassin who Chae-yoon encountered at the burning printing office.

Scholar Sung Sam-moon finds out that Scholar Jang Seong-soo is also a member of the “Cheonji” (Heaven and Earth) group.

As Chae-yoon battles Pyung using all that he has learned from his master Lee Bang Ji, So-yi runs back to the palace and reports to King Sejong.
Pyung stabs Cho-tak to stop Chae-yoon from pursuing him.

On their way down the mountain, Chae-yoon and Cho-tak meet Moo-hyul and the royal guards. While Park-po takes Cho-tak to a doctor, Chae-yoon leads Moo-hyul and the royal guards to the temple. But at the temple, they can’t find the body of Scholar Jang Seong-soo.

Right State Minister Lee Shin-juk confides to a subordinate that decades ago, he swore allegiance to Milbon.

Pyung orders one of his men to find martial arts master Lee Bang Ji.

In Banchon, while Chae-yoon watches, Ga Ri-on conducts an autopsy on Scholar Jang Seong-soo’s body. Later, as Chae-yoon is leaving Banchon, he gets kidnapped by a masked man.

After agonizing over everything that has been happening, King Sejong calls for an emergency meeting of the ministers and scholars. But the plan that he announces incites opposition from the ministers. Assistant Chief Scholar Shim Jong-soo calls for a secret meeting with the high-ranking ministers and top Confucian scholars where he questions King Sejong’s commitment to Neo-Confucianism.

After venting his anger with those who have continually opposed him, King Sejong visits the Hall of Worthies (Jiphyeonjeon).

So-yi recovers from her shock over Scholar Jang Seong-soo’s death, and despite the protests of her fellow court ladies, she goes back to the mountain to look for the package that Scholar Jang Seong-soo was supposed to give to her. But as she’s leaving the palace, Park-po sees her.

As Chae-yoon follows So-yi, she goes to Banchon where she buys some drugs from Ga Ri-on. Chae-yoon finds out from Ga Ri-on that the drugs are so potent that they could eventually kill So-yi.

Episode 9


Episode 8 recap:

Chae-yoon makes a deal with Scholar Sung Sam-moon: he will give the package that Scholar Jang Seong-soo had with him if Scholar Sung Sam-moon finds out the meaning of “Goon Na Mi Yok” (the words written on the piece of paper that Scholar Yoon-pil tried to burn).

Chae-yoon leaves Scholar Jang Seong-soo’s notebook for So-yi to find. But after So-yi finds and reads the notebook, she then tears it up and burns it.

As Chae-yoon warns So-yi about the dangers of the drugs that she’s taking, King Sejong arrives.
As Scholars Sung Sam-moon and Park Paeng-nyeon try to work out all possible meanings of “Goon Na Mi Yok,” Chief Scholar Jung In-ji overhears their discussion and immediately reports it to King Sejong.

After the meeting of the ministers and scholars, Right State Minister Lee Shin-juk and his subordinate go to visit the Ming ambassador. They find out from the ambassador about Assistant Chief Scholar Shim Jong-soo’s suspicious nightly activities.

Moo-hyul tells Chae-yoon that King Sejong has appointed him to investigate Jeong Ki-joon, the leader of Milbon. At the mention of Milbon, Chae-yoon flashes backs to that event 20 years ago when he stole a horse to escape from Banchon’s villagers. Later, he goes to the temple where he tried to seek refuge; there, he sees the Banchon village leader and her right-hand man.

The scholar assigned by King Sejong to conduct the tax reform survey quits because he has been threatened by a Milbon assassin. When the Royal Investigation Bureau under Right State Minister Lee Shin-juk is assigned to the case, Minister Jo Mal-saeng immediately volunteers to lead the investigation.

Chae-yoon has rented a room in Banchon, and as he goes there with Cho-tak, he finds out that the room has been searched by someone. Later, while having drinks with Ga Ri-on, he notices something about Ga Ri-on’s fingers.

At that same time, Minister Jo Mal-saeng finds out that the weapon used to threaten the scholar is a butcher’s knife.

Episode 10


Episode 9 recap:

Scholars Sung Sam-moon and Park Paeng-nyeon are shocked out of their minds when King Sejong reveals that he’s creating Joseon’s very own system of writing.

Chae-yoon catches Ga Ri-on, but he’s taken by surprise when Ga Ri-on tells him that Moo-hyul asked him to search the room and watch his every move. Just then, Minister Jo Mal Saeng’s soldiers arrive and arrest Ga Ri-on.
King Sejong knows Ga Ri-on is innocent, but he can’t allow the witness to step forward.

Chae-yoon confronts Moo-hyul on why he asked Ga Ri-on to search his room.

Minister Jo Mal-saeng questions Ga Ri-on at the Royal Investigation Bureau.

Right State Minister Lee Shin-juk is shocked to find a Milbon document in his office, ordering him to save Ga Ri-on at all costs.

Assistant Chief Scholar Shim Jong-soo questions the Banchon village leader about her actions, but the leader assures him that she’s preparing for Master Hae Gang’s arrival in Sungkyungkwan.

Following up a lead from Ga Ri-on, Chae-yoon meets So-yi, but she refuses to reveal what she knows. Pleading a great cause and bowing before Chae-yoon, So-yi begs him to save Ga Ri-on.

Chae-yoon goes to Banchon and questions all of the villagers. Most people say that they were asleep during the time of the incident, but someone says that he heard a cow crying that night.

In the palace, King Sejong explains to Scholars Sung Sam-moon and Park Paeng-nyeon the system of writing that he’s creating. Afterwards, he meets Chae-yoon and asks him if he knows how to read terror.

Chae-yoon and Cho-tak go to the house of the scholar who was threatened by the Milbon assassin. But while they’re there, Minister Jo Mal-saeng arrives. Later, the scholar orders his aide to hire assassins.

Milbon’s forces are mobilizing to infiltrate the capital. As Milbon’s henchmen post secret codes on the streets, one of them is captured by the Ming intelligence officer.

Episode 11


Episode 10 recap:

The scholar appointed to conduct the tax reform survey faked the Milbon attempt against him.

The leader of Milbon (Hidden Root) is none other than Ga Ri-on himself.
King Sejong meets Ga Ri-on on cliff near Sungkyungkwan, at the exact place where Jeong Do-jeon established Milbon. He tells Ga Ri-on to prepare for a dissection in the palace.

So-yi meets and thanks Chae-yoon for saving Ga Ri-on.

Ga Ri-on meets Banchon’s leader, Pyung, and Assistant Chief Scholar Shim Jong-soo.

A messenger from the north comes to contact Chae-yoon, but he’s captured by Pyung. Chae-yoon and his men rush to Banchon to rescue him.

Minister Jo Mal-saeng reveals to Chae-yoon that Joseon’s best swordsman was a member of Milbon.

Moo-hyul brings Ga Ri-on into the palace, and King Sejong orders him to conduct a dissection that shocks the court ladies and outrages the Cheonji scholars.

Later, Ga Ri-on (as Jeong Ki-joon or Bonwon, leader of Milbon) secretly meets the ministers, scholars, and students of Sungkyungkwan. He reminds them of Jeong Do-jeon’s words about the scholars being the hidden root of Joseon. But Right Minister Lee Shin-juk and later, Master Hae Gang demand that Bonwon must show them the “Milbon Pledge” before they acknowledge him as their leader.

Episode 12


Episode 11 recap:

Against the tenets of Neo-Confucianism, King Sejong orders Ga Ri-on to conduct a dissection of a corpse; to complete his system of writing, he wants to learn how sound is produced by the mouth and throat.

Faced with protests and dissent from the Cheonji scholars, the court ladies, and So-yi herself, King Sejong explains why he ordered the dissection.

Chae-yoon posts all over Banchon a poster showing a drawing of the pouch that Dahm made for him 20 years ago.
Ga Ri-on (aka Bonwon) and a shocked So-yi see the poster of the pouch; written on it are the proposed time and place for a face-to-face meeting.

Chae-yoon doesn’t know that Ga Ri-on is Bonwon, while Ga Ri-on doesn’t know that Chae-yoon is Ddol-bok.

All throughout King Sejong’s presentation, So-yi is completely distracted, thinking that Ddol-bok might still be alive. Later, she goes to the place indicated on the poster.

But Chae-yoon rattles Bonwon by cancelling the meeting and scheduling another one. Bonwon prepares for the next meeting by ordering Pyung to set another ambush for Ddol-bok; he also calls for a Milbon member named Ggeoksoe to meet Chae-yoon.

On the pretext of seeing Ga Ri-on, So-yi again asks permission from King Sejong to leave the palace. But King Sejong finally learns why So-yi left the palace, and he sends Moo-hyul and the royal guards to bring So-yi and Chae-yoon to him.

At the agreed place, Chae-yoon and Cho-tak secretly wait for anyone from Milbon to show up. On the other hand, Pyung and the Milbon warriors are also watching out for Ddol-bok.

Ggeoksoe arrives at the meeting place, and so does So-yi, who recognizes who Ggeoksoe is. But then a fight breaks out when Moo-hyul and the royal guards arrive.

So-yi escapes with Ggeoksoe, but unable to communicate with him, she takes him to Banchon and asks for help from Ga Ri-on.



Episode 13


Episode 12 recap:

So-yi recognizes Ggeoksoe as one of her fellow slaves in Chancellor Shim Won’s household.

Pyung kidnaps So-yi, but she escapes by jumping off a cliff into a river below.

With Park-po’s insight, Chae-yoon solves the “Mount Gye Eon Ma Ui” message and realizes that So-yi is Dahm.
So-yi and Chae-yoon finally meet each other again after 20 years as Dahm and Ddol-bok. But the royal guards and Milbon’s forces chase them.

King Sejong gives So-yi and Chae-yoon their freedom. As King Sejong watches them leave, he remembers how his plan of creating a simple system of writing began and how So-yi became an invaluable part of his plan.

At the temple in Banchon, Right Minister Lee Shin-juk, Master Hae Gang, and the other original followers of Jeong Do-jeon wait for Bonwon to bring the “Milbon Pledge.” Hiding outside the temple are the subordinate and men of Right Minister Lee Shin-juk.

Chae-yoon finally gets to read his father’s letter to him. Later, he goes to the palace, where not a single soldier is on guard, and he gains entry to King Sejong’s room.

Episode 14


Episode 13 recap:

Bonwon gets the “Milbon Pledge” from Chae-yoon and with it, he dominates Right State Minister, Master Hae Gang, and the other senior scholars.

So-yi decides to go back to the palace and continue helping King Sejong with creating Joseon’s own system of writing.
Chae-yoon draws his sword on King Sejong, but Moo-hyul quickly draws his own sword against Chae-yoon. When King Sejong orders him to withdraw, Moo-hyul disobeys him.

Bonwon studies the materials left behind by the dead scholars – the Bibam Scroll (Buddhist scripture written in Sanskrit), the Phagspa erotica, and the “Goon Na Mi Yok” left by Yoon-pil. Later, Right Minister Lee Shin-juk brings to Bonwon a mold for a printing block.

Pyung surrenders to the Royal Investigation Bureau and confesses that he’s the one who killed all the scholars.

Posters are placed all over the capital accusing King Sejong of running a secret organization that’s doing a secret work and of breaking the royal law by forbidding the historiographers to always be with him. The poster also identifies Scholar Sung Sam-moon as a member of the secret organization.

The staff of the various government ministries rise up in protest and demand to examine Scholar Sung Sam-moon. Master Hae Gang stages his own protest before the Gwanghwamun, the biggest gate of the palace. And the Prime Minister warns King Sejong that he must reveal everything about his secret project.

Chae-yoon visits the stream that he and his father went to some 20 years ago. There, he has a vision of his father and So-yi’s father.

Later, in Banchon, Chae-yoon is having drinks with Cho-tak and Park-po when So-Yi arrives.

In the palace, King Sejong and the court ladies remove all the documents after So-yi commits them to memory. At the same time, Prince Gwangpyung prepares two palanquins.

But Bonwon finds out about King Sejong’s plan and sends the Milbon forces to hijack the palanquins.

Episode 15


Episode 14 recap:

Chae-yoon backs down from killing King Sejong.

Bonwon finds out that King Sejong is working on a new alphabet.

The scholars object to King Sejong’s plan because of their allegiance to the Chinese characters and because only barbarian nations have their own alphabet.

Milbon’s men intercept the cart containing the documents and kidnap So-yi and Prince Gwangpyung.
Chae-yoon rescues So-yi and Prince Gwangpyung, but afterwards, he takes So-yi with him. Although injured from the Milbon attack at the printing press, Prince Gwangpyung takes a sword from a fallen Milbon warrior and blocks Chae-yoon.

Milbon puts up posters all over the capital, threatening King Sejong that if he doesn’t stop his plan of creating Joseon’s own alphabet, Prince Gwangpyung will be killed.

As Cho-tak and Park-po discuss Chae-yoon’s letters to them, Ga Ri-on overhears their conversation.

Later, Bonwon (aka Ga Ri-on) finds out that Chae-yoon is actually Ddol-bok and that he wants to kill King Sejong.

Returning to the capital, Chae-yoon sees the Milbon posters and asks Cho-tak what’s happening.

With Prince Gwangpyung bleeding from his injury, So-yi offers to escape and find help. But Prince Gwangpyung says no and says that his father King Sejong will not give up even with his life on the line.

With the royal guards out in force searching for So-yi and Prince Gwangpyung, King Sejong visits Pyung in prison.

Bonwon orders Assistant Chief Scholar Shim Jong-soo to tell Right Minister Lee Shin-juk to release Pyung from prison.

After Pyung and his men get a complete copy of King Sejong’s alphabet, Moo-hyul and his select group of royal guards arrive. A deadly fight ensues, but then, a masked assassin from Milbon appears out of nowhere and confronts Moo-hyul.

At the forum with the ministers and scholars, King Sejong admits secretly working on Joseon’s own alphabet. But he warns them, especially the Milbon members, that he will not stop even if it leads to Prince Gwangpyung’s death.



Episode 16


Episode 15 recap:

Prince Gwangpyung turns up alive in the palace.

Blown away by how easy writing is with the alphabet that So-yi has been working on, Chae-yoon gives his allegiance to King Sejong.
Chae-yoon suggests to King Sejong that he will infiltrate and bring Milbon down, on one condition.

Moo-hyul warns Chae-yoon about Milbon’s assassin.

With Prince Gwangpyung nowhere to be found in the palace and the royal guards still searching, Bonwon falls for Chae-yoon’s deception and decides to recruit him.

King Sejong tells Chief Scholar Jung In-ji and Moo-hyul that he will use words, not swords, to confront the ministers and scholars who oppose his new alphabet.

Despite the misgivings of Assistant Chief Scholar Shim Jong-soo, Bonwon thinks that King Sejong’s alphabet will come to nothing because no one will use it.

As the government shuts down with the continuing protests, the Prime Minister and Right State Minister Lee Shin-juk urge King Sejong to compromise — the opposition to his new alphabet will stop if he abolishes Jiphyunjeon and restores the power of the State Council.

Chae-yoon goes to Banchon and threatens the village leader to reveal who and where Bonwon is. But Pyung and his men arrive.

The Milbon member, Ggeoksoe, meets So-yi at night outside the palace.

The time and date are set for King Sejong to meet with the ministers and decide on Jiphyunjeon’s abolition, but in the meantime, Han Ga-nom (Bonwon’s aide) decodes Milbon’s copy of King Sejong’s alphabet.



Episode 17


Episode 16 recap:

King Sejong debates with the scholars and ministers who oppose his new alphabet.

Bonwon orders Han Ga-nom to stop Right Minister Lee Shin-juk from agreeing to promulgate King Sejong’s alphabet.
To King Sejong’s dismay, Right Minister Lee Shin-juk backs out of the deal that he proposed with the Prime Minister.

Bonwon orders Pyung to bring martial arts master Lee Bang-ji to him; he also orders Right Minister Lee Shin-juk to bring the question for the upcoming civil service exam.

Right Minister Lee Shin-juk tells Bonwon that they could have had the parliament they wanted if Bonwon wasn’t obsessed with stopping King Sejong’s alphabet.

Confusion, disbelief, and rage sweep King Sejong, ministers, scholars, and the Banchon villagers after the first-place winner reveals who he really is.

When some students from Sungkyungkwan take matters into their own hands, Chae-yoon asks Ga Ri-on (aka Bonwon) and later, So-yi what it is about slaves and commoners learning to read and write that so angers the scholars and ministers.

As Chae-yoon reveals that he was Lee Bang-ji’s disciple, he asks Moo-hyul if Lee Bang-ji was a member of Milbon.

Lee Bang-ji goes to Banchon and meets Bonwon.

Episode 18


Episode 17 recap:

A Sungkyungkwan scholar murders the Banchon slave who won first place in the civil service exam. He later on commits suicide.
Chae-yoon and Lee Bang-ji meet in Ga Ri-on’s hut but pretend not to know each other. Later, as they talk on a rooftop, Chae-yoon reveals that his life and plans have changed.

Bonwon (aka Ga Ri-on) decides that he must stop King Sejong’s alphabet at any cost.

Deputy Chief Scholar Choi Man-ri presents to King Sejong his petition protesting the new alphabet.

King Sejong tells Moo-hyul that he wants to meet Jeong Ki-joon (aka Bonwon) in person.

While Lee Bang-ji is remembering his past (with Jeong Do-jeon, Minister Jo Mal-saeng, and the woman he loved), Moo- hyul and some royal guards storm into his house.

Thinking that Lee Bang-ji has betrayed Milbon, Bonwon decides to move the Milbon headquarters from Banchon; later, he confronts Lee Bang-ji.

With Moo-hyul and So-yi, King Sejong goes to the cliff near Sungkyungkwan; he asks Moo-hyul to get some meat from Ga Ri-on in Banchon.

After seeing the stone toy that Gae Pa-yi made for the little girl, Chae-yoon rushes to Lee Bang-ji’s house. Later, finding out that Moo-hyul has gone to see Ga Ri-on in Banchon, he rushes there with a drawn sword.



Episode 19


Episode 18 recap:

Lee Bang-ji disappears after an epic battle with Gae Pa-yi, Milbon’s legendary warrior.

Chae-yoon finds the hidden tunnel in Ga Ri-on’s hut.

At the cliff, while Moo-hyul and Gae Pa-yi draw their swords against each other, Ga Ri-on reveals himself as Jeong Ki-joon (Bonwon) to King Sejong.
King Sejong argues that his alphabet fulfills Jeong Do-jeon’s ideal, while Bonwon (aka Jeong Ki-joon) questions King Sejong’s true intentions and asks how he will deal with the people’s ambition.

Chae-yoon and Cho-tak find the tunnel underneath Ga Ri-on’s hut.

The standoff — between king Sejong and Bonwon, between Moo-hyul and Gae Pa-yi — ends when Pyung arrives and draws his sword against King Sejong.

Later, both King Sejong and Bonwon face doubts about their own views and wonder if the other one is correct.

Chae-yoon gets King Sejong’s consent to raid Banchon and arrest everyone connected with Ga Ri-on and the village leader.

Minister Jo Mal-saeng finds inside his house a critically-wounded man.

On Chae-yoon’s request, So-yi tries to find out where Gae Pa-yi is hiding from Yeon-doo (the little girl who has befriended Gae Pa-yi).

Prince Gwangpyung is at a Buddhist temple preparing the printing of the first book using the new alphabet. But Pyung arrives with his men and captures him. Later, Bonwon visits Prince Gwangpyung and formally bows before him.

That night, Chae-yoon takes Park-po and Cho-tak to investigate an abandoned palanquin near the entrance to the palace.



Episode 20


Episode 19 recap:

Bonwon kills Prince Gwangpyung.

As King Sejong goes into despair, Chae-yoon questions him if Prince Gwangpyung’s sacrifice has been in vain.
After berating King Sejong, Chae-yoon leaves and in one corner of the palace, cries with Prince Gwangpyung’s shoe beside him.

Bonwon orders his men to monitor (and kill) everyone — princes, princesses — who might be used to carry out the plans for the promulgation.

King Sejong meets Chief Scholar Jung In-ji, Moo-hyul, and the Cheonji scholars on how to promulgate the new alphabet. He tells them to use the “frontal assault and ambush” strategy.

Minister Jo Mal-saeng barges into King Sejong’s meeting with the ministers and scholars. After King Sejong gives him full authority to root out Milbon, he begins arresting and torturing all those who knew where Prince Gwangpyung was — beginning with So-yi and the other court ladies who have been helping King Sejong.

King Sejong tells Minister Jo Mal-saeng to closely watch Right Minister Lee Shin-juk and Assistant Chief Scholar Shim Jong-soo.

When Deputy Chief Scholar Choi Man-ri and the other Jiphyunjeon scholars try to block the printing of Buddha’s life using the new alphabet. King Sejong orders them arrested.

Despite Chae-yoon’s pleas, Minister Jo Mal-saeng continues torturing So-yi and the other court ladies. Later, King Sejong orders Chae-yoon arrested.

Episode 21


Episode 20 recap:

As part of King Sejong’s strategy, So-yi and the other court ladies are exiled. But they’re actually on a mission to popularize the new alphabet among the people.

In his dying moments, Lee Bang-ji tells Chae-yoon not to hesitate when he kills someone.

Bonwon, Han Ga-nom, and Pyung find out that King Sejong has tricked them.
So-yi and the three other court ladies prepare to circulate the alphabet, with Chae-yoon, Park-po, and Cho-tak acting as their bodyguards.

Alone with So-yi, Chae-yoon remembers what King Sejong promised to do after they have completed their mission. But he also remembers what So-yi asked of him and King Sejong.

King Sejong orders Minister Jo Mal-saeng to take advantage of the divisions within Milbon.

Right State Minister Lee Shin-juk confers with Master Hae Gang and the other pioneer Milbon members. Later, he’s visited by Shim Jong-soo, and they become worried about Bonwon’s obsession with King Sejong’s alphabet.

During an emergency meeting, King Sejong proclaims that he will promulgate his alphabet, despite Prince Gwangpyung’s death. He also shocks the ministers and scholars by saying that he will recognize Milbon as a political faction.

Minister Jo Mal-saeng asks Deputy Chief Scholar Choi Man-ri if Shim Jong-soo is a Milbon member.

As So-yi and the other court ladies begin their mission, Shim Jong-soo sets out to find the “Haerye” (instructions on how to use the alphabet). Unknown to him, Right State Minister Lee Shin-juk has sent Gyun Jeok-hee (Ming’s chief spy) after him.

Pyung and his men surround Cho-tak, Park-po, and the two court ladies. As a fight ensues, the two court ladies escape. But later, a free-for-all erupts in the mountain when Shim Jong-soo and Gyun Jeok-hee arrive.



Episode 22


Episode 21 recap:

King Sejong promises So-yi and Chae-yoon that, after their mission, they will be free to leave as husband and wife.

Assistant Chief Scholar Shim Jong-soo wants to be the next leader of Milbon, but Right State Minister Lee Shin-juk betrays him.

Under the influence of a drug, court lady Geun-ji tells Gyun Jeok-hee (Ming’s chief spy) where So-yi can be found. She later reveals to Chae-yoon that So-yi is the Haerye.
Pyung arrives in the village where So-yi is based, but on his way, he meets a group of singing beggars.

Court lady Geun-ji gets back to the palace and warns King Sejong that So-yi is in danger from both Milbon and the Ming spies.

Gyun Jeok-hee and later, Shim Jong-soo reach the hut, but So-yi and Deok-geum (the other court lady with her) have already been taken by Pyung.

Pyung reports to Bonwon that Shim Jong-soo has betrayed Milbon; later, he comes upon a group of children singing the song that So-yi taught them.

Chae-yoon goes back to the palace and reports to King Sejong. Later, while waiting for news about the search being conducted by the soldiers, he goes to Banchon where he sees Yeon-doo (the little girl who has befriended Gae Pa-yi).

In the palace, the Cheonji scholars try to persuade the Jiphyunjeon scholars and officials of the value of King Sejong’s alphabet.

Shim Jong-soo thinks that King Sejong may already know that he’s a part of Milbon. When he realizes what the Haerye is all about, he goes to the Milbon hideout to meet Bonwon.

Meanwhile, King Sejong calls Right State Minister Lee Shin-juk to a secret meeting and asks him outright if he’s a member of Milbon.



Episode 23


Episode 22 recap:

Shim Jong-soo bargains with Bonwon — he will give the Haerye in exchange for being recognized as the new leader of Milbon.

King Sejong tells Right Minister Lee Shin-juk to give up Jeong Ki-joon (Bonwon) in exchange for being the leader of the Milbon political faction.
When Shim Jong-soo demands that Bonwon give him the “Milbon Pledge” and the complete list of members, Bonwon asks for time to think about it.

With information from the surviving beggar and a boatman, Chae-yoon and Cho-tak search the mountain for So-yi.

Despite Han Ga-nom’s protest, Gae Pa-yi brings Yeon-doo to the Milbon hideout.

When no minister identifies himself as part of Milbon, King Sejong announces to the ministers and scholars that he will promulgate the alphabet in front of 10,000 people and make learning it mandatory for all scholars taking the civil service exams.

Later, King Sejong remembers So-yi as Chief Scholar Jung In-ji says that without her, they have no way of explaining how the alphabet works.

In the hideout, Bonwon orders that all of their swords, spears, and arrows must be tipped with poison to make sure that they kill King Sejong and all those who know the alphabet.

While being held captive, So-yi sees Yeon-doo and calls her. But Pyung arrives and takes So-yi to Bonwon. Later, Bonwon orders that Yeon-doo be killed.

With Pyung and So-yi, Bonwon goes to the agreed meeting place and time. But as as he and Shim Jong-soo are talking, they’re attacked by Gyun Jeok-hee and the Ming spies.

Episode 24: Finale


Episode 23 recap:

Chae-yoon saves Yeon-doo and through Cho-tak tells Moo-hyul and Minister Jo Mal-saeng where the Milbon hideout is. The royal guards then attack the hideout.

The Ming spies withdraw in fear when Gae Pa-yi appears.

Bonwon deduces that So-yi is the Haerye.
As So-yi and Chae-yoon are escaping, Bonwon (Jeong Ki-joon) orders Gae Pa-yi to kil So-yi.

While Chae-yoon searches for her, So-yi stumbles into a cave. She rips her white undergarment into pieces and begins writing down the “Haerye” (instructions) for King Sejong’s alphabet.

After Chae-yoon finds her, So-yi pleads with him to protect King Sejong.

Jeong Ki-joon gives to Shim Jong-soo the “Milbon Pledge” and appoints him as the new “Bonwon” (leader of Milbon).

With the scholars and ministers, thousands of people gather in front of the palace for the promulgation of King Sejong’s alphabet. Jeong Ki-joon himself is in the crowd, with a knife hidden in his clothes.

While Chief Scholar Jung In-ji is explaining the alphabet to the crowd, Gae Pa-yi storms his way through and attacks the soldiers guarding King Sejong.

After confronting Moo-hyul, Gae Pa-yi leaps into the air to reach King Sejong, but Chae-yoon arrives and blocks him.

With Pyung fighting off the pursuing soldiers, Jung Ki-joon uses the secret tunnel into the palace. He enters the room in the palace where the alphabet was created and waits for King Sejong.

Spoiler alert: Video below (no English subs) shows the fight between Moo-hyul and Gae Pa-yi, and between Gae Pa-yi and Chae-yoon. It also shows the crowd picking up the strips of cloth where So-yi wrote the “Haerye” (explanation on how to use King Sejong’s alphabet).



Historical backgrounders and other information


100 Icons of Korean Culture Ep86 King Sejong



Spirit of Korea _ King Sejong



History of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, and its meaning for Koreans



Learn Hangul in 90 Minutes - Start to Finish [Complete Series]



Learn Hangul in 35 minutes - How to Write and Read Korean



Fast Korean Alphabet: How To Learn Hangul Rapidly (animation)



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Lessons in photography: rule of thirds, shallow depth of field



Lesson in photography: shallow depth of field