Trigger warning: suicide, tragedy, death.
As a writer, I am always curious to know about other writers. Since I began learning the Korean language, I have slowly delved into the Korean literature (translated, for now) as well.
So today, I bring you a story of yet another, albeit less known poet – Kim Woo Jin. I can already feel some of you thinking, isn’t that Lee Jong Suk’s character name from ‘Hymn of Death’. Well, then you are right. It is indeed about that character and his tragic love story with soprano singer Yun Shim Deok.
Kim Woo Jin was one of the first modern playwrights and literary critics of Korea. He is widely known for his play Wild Pig and the poem Theory of Death and Life. He used to write under the pen name Kim Soo San.
Kim Woo Jin or Kim Soo San, met Yun Shim Deok an upcoming soprano singer in Japan. They both fell and love and this began the beginning of a tragic affair. Kim Woo Jin was married. He had an arranged marriage on his father’s request. Not much is known about his life.
Yun Shim Deok is the first female soprano of modern Korea. She went to Japan and became the first Korean to study at the Tokyo Music School. She made her debut as a soprano in 1923. But she soon switched to singing pop songs because she could not earn a living by singing Western classical songs. Her song Hymn of Death sold 10,000 copies following her death in 1926. It is considered as the first Korean pop song. It was recorded in Osaka, Japan by Nitto. The 2018 drama stars Lee Jong Suk as Kim Woo Jin and Shin Hye Sun as Yun Shim Deok. There is also a 1991 movie named Death Song starring Chang Mi Hee as Yun Shim Deok. The movie went on to win the Blue Dragon Award for Best Film.
You can listen to the original version of the song ‘Hymn of Death’ here –
Kim Woo Jin and Yun Shim Deok jumped off the ship carrying them back to Korea from Japan. That day was August 4th, 1926. Their deaths caused quite a stir back then. They were both 29.