Yi San is a Korean drama based on the fictional story of the life of one of Joseon Dynasty’s notable king and 22nd ruler King Jeongjo. Set during Joseon’s 17th century events, the story portrays the life of Korea’s royalty, the commoner and the elite during that time. It highlighted King Jeongjo struggles to govern his people balancing power, governance and his deep love and concern for the people of Joseon especially, the commoners, the poor and the underprivileged and deprived due to the government system, laws and the bureaucracy. Joseon’s foundation on the Chinese Confucian ideals brought some rifts and factions against the passing of its laws, government protocols and principles.

When King Jeongjo was 11 he became friends with commoner children of the same age as he was Seong Song-yeon who will later on became Lady Ui and one of his royal consort and Park Dae-su who will later became a royal army for the king. The 3 children became friends when the young San, (King Jeongjo’s birth name) needed help of the young Song-yeon and Dae Su who sneaked into the palace out of their fascination about the life in the palace. San was on the palace court trying to find his way to get near the rice box that imprisoned his father, Crown Prince Sado. San was able to talk for the last time to his father whose last wish was for him to survive no matter what and become a great king of Joseon.

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The unconditional friendship that last through time.
San’s childhood with his commoner friends made him pursue a goal to raise the level of those common people but gifted with talents and intellects. Although their unconditional friendship will be short, it left San that precious love and unconditional feelings that yearns and blossomed through time. Due to his royal duty as the grandson and heir to the throne of Joseon, San never falter on his feelings toward Eong-yon and valued his promises to his childhood friends. At their very young age, the 3 made a promise to look after each other no matter what. Seong- yon and Dae Su promised to make sure they will be with each other and protect San with their lives.
A friendship beyond life struggles.
Even though Seong-yon and Dae-su struggles with their lives as poor commoners they continue to up hold what they promise to San. San’s life as a royalty was also battered with struggles trying to keep his promise to his father wo died due to a wrongful accusation which is own father, the king has no choice but to execute the punishment according to the prevailing palace law. While serving his punishment, Crown Prince Sado and San’s father died from heat and suffocation.
The sad event left San so devastated that he vowed to make good the promise he made to his late father to reform the law that wrongfully accused his father and cost his life. Since the death of his father, the stigma of a rebel that was wrongfully bestowed to his late father also haunted San through time. He spent his time and reign defending and finding the truth and clearing his father’s name and honor.
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The friendship that blossomed into pure love.
With the thoughts of their childhood promise with each other, Seong-yon tried her best to enter the palace using her skills in art. She was accepted and became a Damo at the Royal Art Bureau . Despite her lowly status being a Damo or a helper in the Art Bureau, Seong-yon persevered and did her best with thoughts of keeping her childhood promise to her friends and hoping to see and encounter San in the palace. But keeping her promise was never that easy for Seong-yon goes through everyday persecution due to her being a woman and her lowly status. Her only consolation as she goes through every struggle was the undying childhood friendship in her heart. Meanwhile, Dae-su who got to live along with his uncle who was a palace eunuch was fortunate to live together with Seong-yon when his uncle took her in and adopt being an orphan and with no family around. The two grew up together in the house of Dae-su’s uncle. Both have endured their everyday lowly life but treasured in their hearts their friendship and company together as they find a way to find and make good of their promise to San. Dae-su managed being accepted as a palace guard and like Seong-yon hopes to see San and serve him as a royal guard and be able to protect him. As they gre together, Dae-su’s friendship with Seong-yon blossomed into love yet he cannot show and convey for he truly knows that Seong-yon’one and only love since their childhood was San. Dae-su contend himself of just being with Seong-yon and always protective of her welfare.
Under the tutelage of his grandfather king, San was able to know the ins and outs of his royal duty and later became the king when his grandfather died. Although rebellions and various threats in his life strife his reign, San was able to slowly but efficiently enforced reforms of the palace laws and greatly lessen bureaucracy and corruption between the ruling government factions and securing his life from various threats. But what keep San from surviving these obstacles were his undying love for Seong-yon.
San was able to fulfil his promise to his friends when they finally encountered them in the palace. He made Dae-su a close confidante and a high official of the royal guards and primary responsible for his security.
Seong-yon was able to pursue er dream of becoming a palace artist and she was later on became one San’s royal consort. Though Seong-yon’s acceptance as part of the royal family having all the politics in choosing her title and being close to San. But Seong-yan’s sheer talent and kind heart paved its way for her to be accepted and bestowed a fitting title for her.
The queen who lived by San did not bear him a son. Seong yon gave San the pride of having a son and experience fatherhood . Although Seong-yon’s first child was short lived when the boy died at a young age, the experience of being a father to his child from the woman he truly loved completes San’s wholebeing. And when Seong-yon was afflicted by a grave disease of liver cancer, it was a very sad journey he and the people who valued and loved Seong-yon had to overcome with great difficulty. Seo-yon died with a still unborn second child in her womb.

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The love funded with friendship and ripples for the good of the people.
Seng-yon’s love enabled San to live on the right track throughout his reign. The love and valuable friendship they have made San endure all the struggles along the way of his reign and made Joseon experience the grandeur and enlightenment that made Joseon one of the most notable dynasties in Korea’s historic past.