City Hunter (Hangul: 시티헌터) is a 2011 South Korean television drama series starring Lee Min-ho, Park Min-young, Lee Joon-hyuk, Kim Sang-joong, Kim Sang-ho, Hwang Sun-hee, Goo Ha-ra, Chun Ho-jin and Lee Kwang-soo. It premiered on May 25, 2011 on SBS and finished broadcasting on July 28, 2011. It is based on the Japanese manga series City Hunter written and illustrated by Tsukasa Hojo.
In 1983, the South Korean president and his delegates are visiting Burma when a bomb planted by North Korean agents explodes, killing some high-ranking officials. This historical event is called the Rangoon bombing (also known as the Rangoon incident). To strike back, five South Korean officials plan a covert operation, codenamed “Operation Cleansweep,” to enter North Korea and kill several top members of the North’s high command. Lee Jin-pyo and Park Moo-yul, two Presidential Security Service bodyguards and best friends who were present at the bombing, organize a 21-man team for the mission. However, as the team wreaks havoc in Pyongyang, the five officials abort the plan to avoid an international crisis if the mission is discovered. Their major concern is that the United States will withdraw its nuclear protection if the mission is made public, in light of Seoul’s official declaration that it will not retaliate.
The operation is successful, but as the troops swim out from Nampo to an ROK Navy submarine assigned for their extraction, snipers aboard the submarine open fire on them. An already injured Park sacrifices his life to save Lee. Lee swims back to shore and returns to South Korea, where he finds out that the assault team’s service and personal records have been erased.
Vowing to avenge his fallen comrades, Jin-pyo kidnaps Moo-yul’s infant son. He flees to the Golden Triangle to raise the child as his own and trains the boy intensively in combat. Following an attack on a village they are living in, Jin-pyo confesses his long-term plan for revenge to the child, Lee Yoon-sung.
Seven years later, after successfully finishing his college years and attaining a doctorate in the United States at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yoon-sung returns to South Korea to fulfill his adoptive father’s plan for revenge. He enters the Blue House as an IT expert under the National Communication Network Team. He is warned by Jin-pyo not to trust anyone and never fall in love, as doing so will put the people around him in danger.
While working at the Blue House, the plot takes off after Lee meets bodyguard Kim Na-na. Eventually Na-na helps him to take revenge, as they discover that they have the same goal in mind. Problems occur as Jin-pyo’s revenge plot unfolds, especially when Lee defies his surrogate father at several occasions as they try to identify and kill the officials, known as the “Council of Five.”
(Notes: Names in parentheses appear in the Philippine-aired version)
- Lee Min-ho as Lee Yoon-sung/Puchai (Johnny Lee)
The show’s titular character, codenamed “City Hunter”, Yoon-sung’s ultimate goal is to avenge his father’s killers. Using the identity of a Korean-American teenager, who is later revealed to have died several years before, he assumes a double life by graduating from MIT with a doctorate degree and lands a job at South Korea’s presidential palace. The job would lead to him to cross paths with presidential bodyguard Kim Na-na, with whom he falls in love.
- Park Min-young as Kim Na-na (Nana Kim)
Na-na was forced to fend for herself at an early age after her mother was killed in a drunk driving accident and her father went comatose. Her exceptional skills in martial arts eventually earns her an assignment with the Presidential Security Service. During her time as a bodyguard, she falls in love with Lee Yoon-sung and eventually discovers his real identity. She steps down from the Blue House in the epilogue.
- Lee Joon-hyuk as Kim Young-joo (Jiro Kim)
An intelligent prosecutor, Kim Young-joo possesses a strong sense of justice, even against the corrupt politicians of South Korea. He is a son of one of the officials who ordered the 1983 operation. He is a constant rival of the City Hunter by working towards the same goals under legal cover, and tries to figure out the City Hunter’s identity at the same time. Young-joo dies trying to arrest Chun Jae-man in the penultimate episode.
- Kim Sang-joong as Lee Jin-pyo (Steve Lee)
Operation Clean Sweep’s sole survivor, Lee spends the intervening years in the Golden Triangle as a drug lord. Full of anger, he wants to kill all of the people who ordered his team dead. He pretends to be a Korean-American investor and uses Lee Yoon-sung as his agent of vengeance. He is killed by the Presidential Security Service in the final episode after failing to kill President Choi. Lee and the rest of the Clean Sweep strike team are eventually honored in Seoul National Cemetery.
- Kim Sang-ho as Bae Man-duk/Bae Shik-joong (Lyndon/Dindo Bae)
A problem gambler but a very good cook whom Lee Yoon-sung saves from thugs in Thailand and later becomes his close friend. Over the course of the series, Bae and Lee become partners under Lee Jin-pyo’s scheme – and also racks up huge debts buying stuff from the home-shopping network. However, it is revealed that Bae witnessed the accident that resulted in Kim Na-na’s woes and was hiding in Thailand by the start of the series after being paid off by the culprit – Kim Jong-shik to change his story. Bae decides to start a new life in the United States with Kyung-hee by the end of the series.
- Hwang Sun-hee as Jin Sae-hee (Clarisse Jin)
A veterinarian by trade, Sae-hee is Young-joo’s ex-wife and a good friend to the other characters.
- Goo Ha-ra as Choi Da-hye (Nikki Choi)
One of President Choi’s two children, Da-hye is smitten with Lee Yoon-sung early in the series by asking him to be her tutor. Her status of being the president’s daughter does not let her any friends at school and even creates a public scandal when she attacks a group of girls who criticize her father’s governance within earshot. She decides not to go to college (because of her poor grades) and is forced to find a job while switching her infatuations over to Kim Young-joo.
- Chun Ho-jin as Choi Eung-chan (William Choi)
The incumbent president of South Korea at the start of the series, Choi was one of the five men involved in planning the 1983 operation and promised the unit he will help get them home. He was later out-voted in the decision to abort the operation and forced to live with the guilt for 28 years. He is the only member of the group who knows that Lee Jin-pyo survived the debacle, yet does nothing to stop him despite knowing that the former bodyguard’s ultimate goal is to kill him and the other officials. It is later revealed that the president is Lee Yoon-sung’s real father, who sired him with Lee Kyung-hee. He is depicted in the series as an idealist who believes the end is worth the means, which results in his impeachment by the National Assembly after he bribed a number of deputies to help pass an important education reform bill.
- Park Sang-min as Park Mu-yeol (Andrew Park)
Lee Yoon-sung’s father, who dies protecting Jin-pyo in the first episode. It is revealed that he is not the real father, merely offering to comfort Lee Kyung-hee after Choi Eung-chan calls off their affair months before the episode takes place. Park and Lee Jin-pyo’s names are at the top of a memorial slab honoring the Clean Sweep team.
- Kim Mi-sook as Lee Kyung-hee (Susan Lee)
Lee Yoon-sung’s mother, Kyung-hee was led to believe her son died in an accident and moved on to have a single life running a small eatery. She contracts leukemia later in the series, but starts to recover after Yoon-sung donates bone marrow for her. Kyung-hee migrates to the United States with Shik-joong to start a new life in the final episode.
- Lee Seung-hyung as Song Young-duk
The head of the Blue House’s National Communications Network team.
- Yang Jin-sung as Shin Eun-ah (Olga Shin)
Kim Na-na’s other female colleague in the PSS, who is assigned to look after Choi Da-hye.
- Lee Kwang-soo as Ko Ki-joon (Anton Go)
Yoon-sung’s colleague in the National Communications Network team who is visibly interested in Eun-ah. The couple are engaged at the end of the series.
- Jeong Joon as Kim Sang-gook (Brandon Kim)
A former police officer, Kim is tapped by Jin-pyo for the revenge project upon learning that his own brother was part of the 1983 operation. He was sacked from the force for breaking into the National Intelligence Service‘s files and trying to find out what happened to his brother.
- Lee Hyo-jung as Lee Kyung-wan (Oscar Lee)
A senator, Kyung-wan is the City Hunter’s first target among the Council of Five, who also pocketed certain children’s welfare funds. He is imprisoned for the crime, but is implied to have died at Jin-pyo’s hands in Episode 9.
- Choi Jung-woo as Chun Jae-man (Conrad Chun)
A businessman running a chaebol (a chemical company and hospital is seen in the series as part of it), Jae-man participated in planning the North Korea mission and later burns a book containing all covert operations in 1983 that were supposed to be declassified in 2030. It is revealed that the book he burned was just a copy and Jin-pyo acquired the original files, but not before Jae-man does a little historical revisionism by saying that the operation took place because the team tried to defect to the North with some state secrets. His corruption case is also depicted as one that no government prosecutor wants to handle, as those who do take it on are often harassed into quitting. Chun dies at Jin-pyo’s hands in the final episode.
- Choi Il-hwa as Kim Jong-shik (Francis Kim)
Kim Young-joo’s father and a former education minister, Jong-shik was one of the officials who plotted the North Korea mission and agreed to the subsequent cover-up. He would go comatose later in the series as the City Hunter tries to take him down in light of an investigation over hiding around two billion won in college subsidies. He regains consciousness in the final episode to learn of his son’s death.
- Choi Sang-hoon as Seo Yong-hak (Randy Seo)
A former defense minister and a prospective presidential contender, Yong-hak was an army general at the time of the 1983 operation and has often used his influence to have his three sons avoid the military’s required three-year conscription. The City Hunter unmasks him for entering into deals to provide substandard combat boots and acquire defective fighters for the Air Force. As the truth behind Clean Sweep unravels, Yong-hak comes forward with what he knows and pins the president as the mastermind.
- Min Young-won as Min Hee (cameo)
- Yoon Ye-hee as Mrs. Yong (First Lady) (cameo)
- Kim Byung-choon as Jang Woo-hyun
- Shin Young-jin as Kim Mi-ok
- Chae Sang-woo as young Puchai