Title: Hymn of Death 사의 찬미
Release Date:November 27- December 4 2018
Starring: Lee Jong-Suk, Shin Hye-Sun
This Netflix original is short and sweet. With only three episodes, you can finish the drama in an evening- just be sure to grab a box of tissues and a cozy blanket before you begin!
The story begins when Yun Sim-Deok a soprano singer, meets and falls in love with playwright Kim Woo-Jin wile at university. Things become complicated when Sim-Deok discovers that Woo-Jin has family commitments and responsibilities that do not allow them to be together. Fed up with their obligations, the two tragically decide to commit suicide (no spoilers here- that is literally how the show begins!)
While the incident is famous in Korea, not many westerners know the history behind the drama- and that it is based on a TRUE STORY.
Yun Sim-Deok (윤심덕) is remembered as Korea’s first soprano singer.
Born in Pyongyang on July 25, 1897, Sim-Deok was privileged enough to study at Kyongsong Women’s Teaching College in Seoul 1914. Education for women at such a high level was unusual during the time. Sim-Deok was eager to further her studies and became the first Korean to study at the Tokyo Music School in Japan where she met Kim-Woo-Jin (김우진).
Sim-Deok had her first debut as a soprano in 1923 and while she was admired for her talent, she was unable to make a living by singing western classical music. This forced her to change course and sing pop and fold music in order to support herself.
She famously committed suicide with Kim-Woo-Jin on August 4, 1926 at the age of 29.
Sim-Doek’s most famous recording was “In Praise of Death” (the first Korean pop song) in 1926 that she recorded with her sister accompanying her on the piano. The piece is set to the tune “Waves on the Danube” by Ivanovici.
Here’s the original 1926 recording:
For comparison here’s a modern rendition of the song:
It is difficult to find details on the life of author Kim Woo-Jin in English.
No matter how hard I look, I can’t seem to find anything on him- though I would love to insert some of his writings here for you to read!
If you can understand Korean though- this documentary published in 1997 looking into his life may be helpful !
If you know or can access the history surrounding this author (or can translate) let us know! We would love to learn more about him!
I must admit that I am no expert in Korean history- if you were as confused as I was, I went and did some research for you, so here’s a little context for the Drama.
TLDR? Check out the highlighted sections for info directly relating to the Drama
- Japan attempted to establish diplomatic relations with Korea which were refused. In frustration, Japan began considering war against Korea
- Japan sent warships to threaten Korea to sign a treaty of commerce and friendship, which it did resulting in the opening of Busan, Wŏnsan, and Incheon to Japanese trade.
- The increasing Japanese presence in Korea disturbed China who sent troops to Korea.
- China then forced Korea to sign a trade agreement which led to similar treaties signed with the United states (1882), the UK, Germany, France and Russia who quickly established foreign missions in Seul.
- This led to rapid modernization in Korea. Many officials and students were sent to the West, China and Japan to study technology and ideology to bring back to Korea.
- After Japan’s victory in the Sino-Japanese War, the Treaty of Shimonoseki of April 1895 recognized Japanese hegemony in Korea.
- Encouraged by Russia, the Korean government attempted to push out the Japanese
- The Korean Emperor secretly sent an emissary to the International Peace Conference at the Hague in 1907 asking for help. This plea was ignored however and by 1910, Japan dispersed the Korean army and took full possession of Korea
- Japan set up their government in Korea. Koreans lost freedom of assembly, association of the press and the freedom of speech. The Japanese school system was enforced and as an attempt to assimilate Koreans, the Japanese language was forced onto the people while Korean language and Korean history were no longer allowed to be taught.
- March 1 1919: The March First Movement, was a nationwide anti-Japanese peaceful protest in which approximately two million Koreans took part. The Japanese responded with brutal violence arresting 46,000 while 16,000 were wounded and 7,500 were killed.
- Students and Intellectuals attempted to inspire the Korean people with ideals of patriotism and democracy. This was done through western-styled newspapers and through the creation of Korean novels and poems which grew in popularity
- A big anti-Japanese Rally occurred again in Seoul in 1926
- A Nationwide student uprising occurred in November 1929
- Constant uprisings and WWII led to Korea’s independence in 1945 ending 35 years of Japanese rule.
To learn more check out this link
TO be honest, this Drama is EXTREMELY TAME. Don’t get your hopes up because there is one and only one kissing scene. While modesty is one of the charms of Kdrama- this one really builds up the chemistry and tension- and leaves you a little dissatisfied.
EVEN SO, it was a nice, short little drama that I really enjoyed.
I loved the struggles of the young author, and the history involved in the series.
I had a fun time and learned something new!
If you have an empty afternoon and are ready to shed a tear- this Drama is PERFECT !
Also, its on Netflix which is really convenient. Next time your browsing your suggestions, look it up!
As a teaser, enjoy this little clip from the drama: