Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People is based on the classic Korean folktale about a man (Yoon Kyun Sang) of low birth who becomes a revolutionary activist in Joseon as he serves justice to the noble class on behalf of the poor.
I usually like to watch a longer historical in December each year, and I decided to go for Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People this time. And what a fantastic choice that was! This is an epic tale jam-packed with emotion, excitement, heartbreak, action, and so much more!
Yoon Kyun Sang plays the titular Hong Gil Dong. He was born a slave, but he is a special boy known as a Mighty Child who is blessed with superior strength and abilities. He has to hide this secret for much of his life, but a time comes when he is an adult where he must take the lead and use his abilities to help the people.
Kim Sang Joong is Gil Dong’s father, Amogae. As a slave, he has always been looked down upon. In an attempt to free himself and his family, things take a terrible turn. But he works to build a better life for his family and to better his position in his society.
Chae Soo Bin is Song Ga Ryeong. She works as a maid at a Gisaeng house and takes a liking to Gil Dong. While he doesn’t initially return her affections, she becomes very loyal to him and his group.
Honey Lee plays the gisaeng, Jang Nok Soo. She’s had a difficult life but has found a way to position herself in a good way. Gil Dong wins over her heart, but she has to bury those feelings as she moves forward with a plan to get close to the king.
Kim Ji Suk is Lee Yoong/King Yeonsangun. He’s a king who lives a conflicted life and eventually has to deal with the attention people are giving Gil Dong as he becomes a hero figure to them. One of the only people who brings him true comfort is Nok Soo. But even she can’t stop his bloody and tyrannical reign.
Shim Hee Sub is Hong Gil Hyun, Gil Dong’s older brother. He’s intelligent and enjoys learning, but his station in life prevents him from going far with his skills. But an unexpected opportunity positions him next to the King.
Rebel Thief Who Stole the People is such an amazingly well written and directed drama! It always had a clear idea of where it was going with well-developed story arcs beautifully laid out that blended together seamlessly. The story was paced so nicely all the way through. This is particularly great since it is a 30 episode drama. I was never bored once which is the absolute best thing a drama can do for me.
It depicted some very emotional character journeys as well as some just plain heartbreaking stories. The characters and us go through some wonderful highs but also some incredible lows. It’s an emotional roller coaster for sure.
As is usually the case for me, I found the childhood portion of the story to be very engaging as I was quickly drawn into the world of Gil Dong and his family. The child actor, Lee Ro Woon, who played Gil Dong was just too cute too! But he and his family have a difficult life as slaves. Plus, they have to hide the fact that Gil Dong was born with super strength.
There are a lot of interesting developments in these episodes as we set up the groundwork for what’s to come. I was sad to be leave that part of the story, but I was anxious to see the adult cast and where things would go.
We watch as Amogae and Gil Dong rise from their lowly origins to become a vigilante group that doles out justice to the noble class because of the horrible laws that benefit them and hurt those of low birth. It really is a Robinhood type story centered around a hero and his band of men as he wins the heart of the people.
The father/son relationship between Gil Dong and Amogae was such an emotional one. Their bond runs deep all the way from Gil Dong’s childhood to his adult years. Although it was tested at times, their love for each other was very clear, and watching them struggle to survive and make something of their lives was moving to see.
This drama really executed its pay off scenes incredibly well. Whether it be a reunion between two people, someone’s death, or a well-planned revenge, these scenes were always so satisfying to watch because the joy and sorrow was so wonderfully depicted. And I can’t say enough how outstanding every single one of the actors were. They were just amazing in every way possible!
Honey Lee was a big standout for me in the drama. I found her absolutely captivating every time she was on screen. She just has this ability to draw you in when she is acting, and her emotional scenes were particularly intense. She also put in a whole lot of work to perform some outstanding traditional dance numbers that were truly beautiful to see. Just wow!
Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People is a drama where the main focus isn’t on the romance, but Gil Dong’s relationship with Ga Ryeong is a nice subplot. The romance is very slow to develop with her liking him pretty quickly but him taking a while to warm up to her.
It’s a good halfway through the drama before things take a solid romantic turn. The romance is just one of many happenings, but it does have a solid impact in the second half. This couple is very sweet, and I really enjoyed their love and dedication to each other.
There is an incredibly fun group of supporting characters that become like a family to Gil Dong. It was so interesting to see them initially come together and carve out a life for themselves as they help Gil Dong on his mission.
Then they go through some very difficult times, but this group is so loyal and always ready to defend each other. This was both a fun ensemble that made me laugh as well as a group that frequently touched my heart. I seriously grew to care about all of these characters.
And be prepared for all kinds of baddies that you are sure to hate. They are a constant presence always plotting to take down our heroes. And some of them are the kind that you just can’t hardly get rid of!
The music in this drama has to be mentioned too as it is just fantastic! The soundtrack is unique with songs that are fun, traditional, and evoke so much emotion. The background music was even wonderful. It just all really complimented the drama so well.
Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People is one of those rare special dramas. It takes a lot to create a story that I find captivating from beginning to end, and for it be on the longer side is even more amazing. With a grand story, impeccable directing, amazing actors, moving music, and a legendary hero, Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People is a drama not to be missed.
My Rating: 10/10
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