‘Stealer: The Treasure Keeper’ Review: 3 Charms that Got You Hooked

stealer the treasure keeper review

Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

stealer the treasure keeper review
Credit: tvN

Stealer: The Treasure Keeper (hereinafter referred to as Stealer) is a breath of fresh air in the K-drama scene, which is now filled with similar-toned works. The show portrays the “righteous” thief named Skunk who steals hidden cultural relics from the villains and returns them to their rightful places. The protagonist plays a hero who brings the exhilarating satisfaction of punishing evil while maintaining the unique charm of the caper genre. Although only four episodes have aired so far, the show has revealed several strengths and gradually captured the hearts of viewers. Let’s explore the three key charms of Stealer.

Enchanting Dark Hero

A dark hero is a character who ultimately aims to achieve justice but has no choice but to commit necessary evils. The same goes for Stealer. Although Skunk ultimately recovers the nation’s treasures, he faces the dilemma of stealing the items from their owners (even if they are villains). The drama cleverly utilizes this irony to provide both laughter and enjoyment.

The combination play between the main character, Hwang Dae Myung (Joo Won) and Chun Ja (Choi Hwa Jung) is particularly impressive. While Hwang Dae Myung dives into enemy territory to perform heroic feats, Chun Ja supports him with various technical devices. The witty exchanges between the two add fun to the story. The suit that Hwang Dae Myung changes into for his operations certainly catches the eyes, and the various faces he makes and the sight of him using unexpected features to escape crises somehow reminds us of Iron Man. Moreover, the action sequences between Hwang Dae Myung and the villains also provide non-stop excitement in the dark hero genre.

stealer the treasure keeper review
Credit: tvN
Intriguing Imagination

As the subtitle “The Treasure Keeper” suggests, the subject matter holds great significance in the drama. The story begins with the premise that Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who invaded Joseon during the Imjin War, actually did so to plunder its cultural relics. The seven Joseon Tongbo (coin) with double holes are linked to a treasure that grants eternal life, making them akin to a “map” sought after by the villains. Hwang Dae Myung and his unofficial cultural relic recovery team, Karma,  are determined to beat the villains in their quest to find the documents.

This setup doesn’t just rely on baseless imagination. The drama continually emphasizes that passages from the documents that got lost during the Imjin War and Admiral Yi Sunsin’s “Nanjung Ilgi” are somehow connected to the Joseon Tongbo. By adding the writer’s imagination to the actual history of the Imjin War and “Nanjung Ilgi,” the story gains momentum and provides an opportunity to reconsider the value of the cultural relics we’ve dismissed. Of course, the most important purpose, entertainment, is not overlooked.

Joo Won’s Double Life

Another irresistible aspect of this drama is watching the performance of Joo Won, who takes on the title role. Returning to the drama scene three years after Alice, Joo Won plays an employee at the Cultural Heritage Administration who is solely devoted to his career and salary during the day, but at night, he becomes the stealer Skunk, who doesn’t hesitate to take on dangerous tasks for justice. Like a typical hero, he displays an entirely different persona and attitude depending on whether he is wearing a suit, spicing up the show.

As a government employee, he is a sycophantic and sloppy man that even his colleagues try to avoid, but all these behaviors are merely an act for the bigger picture that Skunk is drawing. When he turns into Skunk, he is remarkably earnest and maintains an upright posture that even his partner Chun Ja is charmed by. Joo Won’s performance of portraying completely different personalities becomes more intriguing as the episodes progress.

So far, Stealer has been winning over viewers, successfully balancing its delectable theme of a morally upright group of relic thieves and the right amount of action and delightful tone. At times, Stealer may lose its way by overemphasizing its comical side, falling somewhere in between laughter and silliness. But thanks to Ju-won’s performance, who brilliantly blends his double life as a public official and hero, the show manages to maintain its inherent fun. What’s more, the addition of a plausible imagination to historical events stimulates the audience’s curiosity and leaves them wanting more. (7/10)

>> Joo Won Shares Why He Chose to Star in ‘Stealer: The Treasure Keeper’

Editor Hwang Hong Sun: A Korean movie buff who wishes that the warm messages in good works will warm up this world at least by one degree Fahrenheit.

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