Dong Yi Episode 1 Recap

Ji Jin Hee, Han Hyo Joo, Lee So Yeon, Bae Soo Bin동이 (同伊)

Romanized title: Dong Yi
Broadcast station: MBC
Broadcast dates: 22 March – 12 October 2010
Episodes: 50
Cast: Han Hyo Joo, Bae Soo Bin, Ji Jin Hee, Lee So Yeon, Jung Sung Woon
Synopsis: This saeguk drama follows the life of Dong Yi who went from being the daughter of a former slave to a palace maid to King Suk Jong’s concubine. Her son with Suk Jong would become the 21st king of Joseon, Yeong Jo.


Dong Yi starts off with a murder. The man is the inspector general of the South. He was out fishing in the morning when another man (wearing a hat so you cannot see his face) rows out to where the inspector general is. The inspector general asks if he is a fisherman, the man says yes and the inspector general says he can have his spot as he was done. The man thanked him using his title. The inspector general looks at the man and asks “Do you know me?” The man smirks and jumps into the inspector general’s boat, stabbing him. Before the inspector general falls into the water, he clutches and rips off the man’s name tag (which says Kang Jang Hyuk).

Jung Sung Woon

Jung Sung Woon as Dong Joo

Next we cut to a scene of a husband and wife fleeing with their baby. They are running from a group of officials and slave hunters. The head official, after they are surrounded, said that slaves have nowhere to run too. Enter the masked Bae Soo Bin who says that as long as slaves have legs, then they have a place to run to. He and his group fight the officials allowing the couple and their child to flee to safety. In this scuffle, it is revealed that they are the Sword Fraternity. A group of lowborn men who have been trained to fight to help other lowborns. Part of this group is Dong Yi’s elder brother Dong Joo who is also in the music school.

Kim Yoo Jung

Kim Yoo Jung as young Dong Yi

Next we are introduced to Choi Dong Yi. She is an adorable and feisty young girl who is participating in a relay race with her friends (all children from the slave, or lowborn village). The prize? A plateful full of honey cakes for the winning group. When it comes time for Dong Yi to finish the race (which involved the last two opponents to circle the market), her opponent kicks her stick, putting her at a slight disadvantage, but she get back at him and manages to get in front of him. She wins the race by cutting through a side alley, but the official states that the other group won because Dong Yi did not use the main market roads. Dong Yi says that isn’t fair because they said they could use any road in the marketplace. The official tells her to shut up, they were lucky that such lowborn kids even had a chance to race for the sweets.

Enraged at the injustice, Dong Yi and her friends from the slave village steal the sweets causing an uproar and the angered freeborn kids run after them to get their prize back. While Dong Yi is fleeing with her friend, they come across the body of the man who was stabbed fishing. Dong Yi’s friend flees in fear, but she stays and tries to figure out how to help the man. He mouths some words, but she cannot hear them, nor does she understand the motions he makes with his hands. She later runs for the guards, but by the time they arrive, the man is dead. Before he died, he put the name tag in Dong Yi’s bag.

Jung Jin Young

Jung Jin Young as Seo Yong Gi

Official Seo Yong Gi comes as Dong Yi is yelling at the officials taking care of processing the bodies. He says that Dong Yi is right about them not handling the body correctly and he yells at his subordinates. He asks Dong Yi how she knows so much. She says that her father does official autopsies for the government. Officer Seo then pulls Dong Yi aside and says he’ll give her a great reward if she can give him any information. She says the inspector general talked to her, but Officer Seo became angry when she said she couldn’t hear what he said. He raps her on the head and they part ways.

Dong Yi runs into her brother Dong Joo in the marketplace (trying to hide from officials). He has also overheard that the inspector general was not the only southern official killed. There were two more similar murders. They return home where they tell their father all the events that happened. Later, Officer Seo comes looking for Choi Hyo Won (Dong Yi’s father) to help him with the murder investigations. It turns out that Hyo Won taught Officer Seo when he was younger. For some reason, he disappeared without a trace five years ago and Officer Seo is just now finding him again. Dong Yi’s father goes to help. The other officials sneer at his skills, believing that a lowborn can’t compare with the freeborn police, however, Hyo Won shows off some skill when he could directly place where the inspector general’s murder took place, confirming Seo’s suspicions.

During the New Year greeting for the Dowager Queen, Dong Yi goes to watch her elder brother perform (she wanted to perform as well, but the officials stated they won’t let lowborn children wear the silk dresses). There she meets Sul Hee, a woman who knows her elder brother, not too sure about their connection as of now. During the performance, officials come in and ask Queen Myeongseong to search the musicians for members of the Sword Fraternity. The Queen grants her permission and they roughly and rudely start dragging people around. Dong Joo slips away and takes Dong Yi with him.

Apparently, Officer Seo believes the culprits behind the attacks are the fraternity. Hyo Won tries to talk him out of that mindset, but he is not ready to listen. To top it off, the members who were arrested had bloody swords and other things from the killed officials. So, the power behind the officials’ deaths is trying to lead Seo astray to hide his political agenda and Seo takes the bait. It appears that he has some hatred towards the fraternity, but we don’t know why as of yet.

While Dong Yi is worried about her brother’s behavior, the kids from the marketplace come with her best friend and ask for the honey cakes back. They go through her bag and are disappointed at how few are left. They tell Dong Yi that her friend will get beaten for every cake that is missing. Dong Yi goes to save him as he is being dragged off, but the name tag on the ground catches her eye and she remembers Seo’s words that if she helps him she’ll get an award. She picks up the name tag and goes running off, planning on using the reward to buy the missing honey cakes to save her friend.

When the real people behind the attacks find out there is a little girl who knows who killed the inspector general, they begin to panic. She could ruin their whole operation and reveal the true mastermind. They go out to find her (to kill her), but come across Seo instead who immediately arrests Officer Kang Jang Hyuk. This is seen by a higher official (from the triad?) who is behind the plotting as well. He becomes infuriated and orders a hit on both Dong Yi and her father. Officer Seo is surprised when Dong Yi turns out to be Hyo Won’s daughter, but it definitely explains why she is so smart in police procedure and autopsies.

Bae Soo Bin

Bae Soo Bin as Cha Chun Soo

Dong Yi and her father part ways. She goes off to buy the cakes to save her friend. In the market she runs into a man who warns her to stay away from back alleys. She agrees and thanks him before heading home. The man’s servant asks why he talked to the little girl. The man replied that he saw murderous intent around her. He also said that his perception must be failing him because he saw heaven’s grace surrounding the lowborn child.

Dong Yi’s father is attacked on his way home. He is saved by Cha Chun Soo (Bae Soo Bin). Immediately he thinks of Dong Yi thinking that the attack must have something to do with the officials’ murders and Dong Yi’s evidence. He rushes home but he and Chun Soo are too late, Dong Yi is already gone. Hyo Won tells Chun Soo to rally the troops. It turns out that he is not just part of the fraternity, but actually the leader of it. And that’s where episode one ends.

Episode two promises to be even more thrilling if the previews are any indication.

My thoughts: I love this show right now. Kim Yoo Jung does an excellent job playing the young Dong Yi. Unlike some child actors, she is really convincing in her role. I especially love her relationship with her father and brother and am sad to know that they are to be executed in the next few episodes. I still must admit to confusion, however, this is do to the complicated politics going on. It is hard to keep track of exactly who is in on the scheme to get rid of the southern officials and why. Such tangled webs and we haven’t even entered official court politics yet.

With Dong Yi’s portrayed intelligence at such a young age, it is no wonder (the real historical figure) was said to raise her son strictly and intelligently.

I am looking forward to Han Hyo Joo entering the picture in the next episode. I am happy to see her and Bae Soo Bin reuniting again after Shining Inheritance / Brilliant Legacy. Although, I am disappointed that he still doesn’t get the girl. It would be nice to see them in a drama where their characters actually become a couple.

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