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Hymn of Death: Episodes 1-2

A few months ago, SBS aired this short three-hour drama about the tragic love story between the first Korean opera singer and a stage drama writer during the Japanese occupation. It got some press attention for being dark but lovely, and for addressing some serious subjects, so we thought we’d go back and recap this small but important show. The plot moves quickly, as it has a limited time in which to cover a five-year romance, but so far I find the show absolutely gorgeous.

  
EPISODE 1

August 4th, 1926, 4:00 a.m.

A sailor hears music playing from a ferry cabin, but nobody answers his knock. He lets himself in to find an empty room with some pictures and a man’s watch on the dresser, but what gets his attention is a note sitting on a suitcase.

The short note says, “I am terribly sorry, but please send my luggage back home.” The sailor rushes to the ship’s deck, but all he finds are two pairs of shoes, a man’s and a woman’s. He leans his lantern out over the water, but there’s nothing to be seen.

Tokyo, 1921, five years earlier.

A man reads a script out loud; then decides that it’s worthy of being their first performance, and the anxious writers rejoice. It’s the last of three scripts to be chosen for their Korean theatre tour, which will raise money for the Dongwoohee Theatre group as well as contribute to the development of Korean art.

The leader of the group is English literature student KIM WOO-JIN (Lee Jong-seok). Another member, HONG HAE-SUNG (Oh Eui-shik), hobbles into the room in a dress and heels, whining about being cast as a woman. Fellow writer HONG NAM-PA (Lee Ji-hoon) says tentatively that there is someone else who can play the part…

We cut to a woman, YOON SHIM-DEOK (Shin Hye-sun), a Korean opera singer studying at the Tokyo Music School. She sings “Un bel di vedremo” from Madame Butterfly in a high, clear voice, but her voice teacher stops her.

Professor Ueno asks Shim-deok to interpret the last couple of lines, so she recites, “I will wait for him with my unwavering trust.” Professor Ueno says that Shim-deok is singing the words of longing too cheerfully, and she asks if Shim-deok has ever yearned for a lover. Shim-deok admits that she hasn’t. Professor Ueno tells her that her songs must convey sincerity, and that someday she hopes Shim-deok truly understands the lyrics.

After her lesson, Nam-pa finds Shim-deok and walks with her. He tells her about their theatre group, which was created by Korean students, and how they’ve been invited to perform in Korea during summer break. They want to raise enough money to build a hall, while promoting new plays and Western music to the Korean people.

Shim-deok thinks it sounds dangerous, and she’s not sure she wants to be involved. Nam-pa gives her the address and asks her to just come by and see what she thinks. She decides to go, but as she’s about to walk into the room, she hears a melodious voice and stops to listen:

Watch. Watch how love takes from you. The moment you underestimate love as nothing but a gentle strength, you have made a mistake. Love is something you use to your advantage. To love is to take unsparingly.

Recognizing the words, Shim-deok steps into the room and finds Woo-jin. She says that she disagrees with the author, because true love is about giving, not taking. She asks Woo-jin why he’s reading a Japanese book in Korean, but he says that he’ll only answer after she explains why she barged in on him.

Flustered and annoyed, Shim-deok apologizes for interrupting and turns to leave. Nam-pa arrives and introduces them to each other, so Woo-jin holds out a hand to shake, but Shim-deok haughtily declines.

Woo-jin says that he’s heard Shim-deok is a talented actress, and he asks her to perform with them. Before he even finishes his sentence, Shim-deok says she doesn’t have the time. She starts to leave, but Woo-jin asks why she’s not willing to do this for her country.

Shim-deok whirls back around and retorts that that’s exactly why she won’t do it — she was just barely able to come study with the government’s money. She asks Woo-jin what happens if she fails to become a famous soprano because of his show, so Woo-jin rescinds his offer, saying that he didn’t expect a music major to be good at acting anyway.

That raises Shim-deok’s hackles, so she snaps that she’ll do it under two conditions: she’ll only sing, and if it gets dangerous, she’ll quit immediately. The other troupe members are skeptical, but Woo-jin says that singing will enhance the shows.

That night, Woo-jin gets a letter from his father, like he does every day. It’s filled with money, and the letter tells him firmly that since his father is allowing him to study English literature like he wanted, that when he’s finished, he expects Woo-jin to come home and live the life his father chooses.

The next day Shim-deok sings for the theatre troupe, leaving most of them with unhinged jaws — all except Woo-jin, who sits reading with his back to her. As she sings, Shim-deok flicks her eyes in his direction several times, but he never turns around.

When the song ends, all Woo-jin says about it is for the pianist, Ki-joo, to make it more cheerful next time. He pointedly doesn’t mention Shim-deok’s singing and instead introduces Kyosuke, the Japanese student who will be helping Woo-jin direct the play.

Shim-deok’s insistence on only singing leaves poor Hae-sung till playing the female role, but Woo-jin tells him to suck it up or he’ll give him a worse job, ha. After rehearsal, Nam-pa invites Shim-deok to dinner, clearly interested in her, but she declines and follows Woo-jin out to pick a bone with him.

He’s gone, so she heads to a nearby restaurant to eat, and she finds Woo-jin also there. The tables are full so Shim-deok is forced to sit next to Woo-jin, who orders another bowl of noodles. Shim-deok snaps that she can order for herself, and Woo-jin deadpans that it’s for him, so she starts to order the same thing and he interrupts, “Just kidding, it’s for you.” HAHA, I love his cheek, but Shim-deok looks like she’s trying to kill him with her brain.

She embarrasses herself by trying to take a huge bite of noodles, then spitting it back out when it burns her mouth. Woo-jin wordlessly hands her his water cup, so Shim-deok takes a dignified sip. She asks why he left rehearsal so fast, but Woo-jin just says he was hungry.

He gets up to leave, but Shim-deok still has something to say so she grabs his arm, having just shoved another huge mouthful of noodles in her face. Woo-jin looks flustered by her touch, but he hides his reaction and waits while she eats.

Shim-deok finally gets to ask Woo-jin why he thinks she doesn’t care about her country, but he says he doesn’t think that. She asks why he’s doing a play in Korea when they already lost their country to the Japanese occupation over ten years ago, and Western music and plays won’t help people with no power.

Woo-jin surprises her by agreeing, but he adds that he’s trying to hold onto his country in his own way, and show through his play that their spirit is still alive. He thinks Shim-deok probably sings for the same reason, but she changes the subject.

She asks why he commented on everyone’s performance but hers. Woo-jin says that he didn’t need to comment, because her song was already beautiful. He also answers her question as to why he was reading a Japanese book in Korean: “So as not to forget that I’m Korean.”

He abruptly gets up to pay, and Shim-deok smiles at his back, muttering to herself, “Why didn’t you say that earlier, Kim Woo-jin?” She gets distracted watching Woo-jin at their next rehearsal, and she grows even more intrigued when Ki-joo tells her that he almost single-handedly bankrolls the theatre troupe because of his passion for plays.

Shim-deok tosses and turns in bed that night, and she grows anxious when Woo-jin doesn’t come to rehearsal for two days in a row. She’s told that he’s sick and will be back in a few days, so she visits his boarding house. She finds him sleeping in a sparse room with books on the floor, so she puts them on his desk. Under the books she finds something Woo-jin wrote:

As time goes by, tears stream down because of the wound that can’t be healed. Unable to bear it, I cry. But why does it sit deep as if there’s a fire burning inside me?

If I were a child, and cried in pain, my mother would call for a doctor. If I were a child, my mother would bring me cold water for my burning heart. If I were a child and was sick, a good night’s sleep would wash it away. However, since I am not a child, the wound keeps digging deeper inside. Ah, if only I were a child. -Soosan

Suddenly, Woo-jin asks what Shim-deok is doing.

EPISODE 2

Shim-deok tells Woo-jin that she brought him some porridge, but Woo-jin sees that she was reading his poem and tells her to leave. Shim-deok says she’ll go when it stops raining, lying that she doesn’t have an umbrella. Woo-jin offers to lend his umbrella to her, and she says weakly that she doesn’t like borrowing things.

She’s disappointed when Woo-jin says it’s not raining anymore, but she reluctantly goes, and Woo-jin smiles as he watches her grab her bright red umbrella on her way out, hee. He doesn’t care for porridge, but he eats Shim-deok’s anyway.

Woo-jin returns to rehearsal the next day, saying that he got better fast “thanks to a special treat from someone,” and he catches Shim-deok’s pleased little grin. They walk together afterward, and Shim-deok says that she heard Woo-jin gets sick every year around this time.

He says he takes a few days off for his mother’s death anniversary, but he tells people he’s sick to avoid questions. He tells Shim-deok that his mother died when he was five, and his father remarried three times. He barely has any memories of his mother, so he tries to hang onto the ones he has, which is why he takes those few days off.

He tells Shim-deok not to feel special that he’s telling her this, he just didn’t want her to think he was really sick. She says that having someone to yearn for you is a happy feeling, so his mother must be very happy.

She tells Woo-jin that his poem was incredible and says he should write plays, too. She notices that he’s gone very quiet and asks if he doesn’t want to write plays. Woo-jin turns to look at her and says, “I like (them).” The phrase also sounds like, “I like (you),” and Shim-deok grows flustered.

During another rehearsal, the troupe is interrupted by the Japanese police, who burst in and demand to know if they’re all Korean. Woo-jin say bravely that they are, in Korean, and when the officer tells him to speak in the native language, he says Korean is his native language.

The officer points his gun at Woo-jin’s head and orders him to speak in Japanese, but Kyosuke intervenes and lies that Woo-jin’s Japanese isn’t very good. Thankfully it works, and the officer explains that they’re here to see if the troupe is part of a Korean subversive group plotting against the Japanese government.

They search the room, disrespectfully flinging books and scripts everywhere, but they don’t find anything. Before the police leave, the officer warns the troupe that they’ll be brutally punished if they make any trouble.

The troupe holds a meeting to decide whether to continue their play. Ki-joo admits that she’s scared and wants to stop, and Hae-sung says that putting on a play in Korean is meaningful, but not worth endangering themselves. Woo-jin says that won’t happen, but Nam-pa points out that they do have a connection to the association of subversive Koreans in Japan, who originally suggested the idea of doing the play.

Shim-deok shocks them all by calling them cowards, after they’ve been so passionate about performing a play for their own people in their own language. She tells them to trust Woo-jin and cheer up, and her attitude is infectious.

Woo-jin and Shim-deok walk together after rehearsal again, and Shim-deok admits that she thought Woo-jin was reckless, to rebel against something when he can’t win. She says that now she doesn’t think that way, because it’s the effort and the hope that count. She thanks Woo-jin for changing how she thinks, and he thanks her for recognizing his sincerity.

Over time, Woo-jin and Shim-deok stop hiding their affection for each other. Rehearsals continue uninterrupted, and soon it’s time for their Korean tour. On the ferry to Busan, Shim-deok tells Woo-jin that this reminds her of the day she left Korea, excited to be able to study singing. She says that she’s just as excited today, because now she’ll be singing in her homeland.

Everything goes well with their performances, and the troupe encounters no problems. On the train to the final city on the tour, Woo-jin and Shim-deok share a seat. Shim-deok falls asleep against the window, and Woo-jin reaches out to her, but he pulls back without touching her.

The troupe performs their play about a Korean malcontent in Japan, and unfortunately, there are some Japanese police in the audience, looking pretty angry. Soon it’s time for Shim-deok to sing, and she asks nervously asks Woo-jin to stay close backstage.

She sounds lovely, and Woo-jin watches her sing with a sweet smile on his face. Nam-pa also watches, looking pretty smitten himself, until he sees Woo-jin’s expression.

Afterward, the troupe goes out to a swing club to celebrate. Woo-jin and troupe member Myung-hee talk about their plans after graduation in three years — Woo-jin tells Myung-hee that he’ll be a great writer, and Myung-hee says sadly that he wishes Woo-jin could be a writer, too.

Later, the atmosphere at the club has slowed down. Shim-deok works up her courage to ask Woo-jin to dance, but Nam-pa steps in front of her and asks her to dance with him first. Woo-jin and Myung-hee are still talking about the tour, and Woo-jin says he’ll miss the time they spent together, though he’s watching Shim-deok as he says it.

As they dance, Nam-pa asks Shim-deok if she only likes Woo-jin, or if she’s in love with him. He tells her that either way, she should stop her feelings, or she’ll only get hurt. Shim-deok steps out of his arms and says she doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but as Nam-pa is about to explain, the Japanese police bust into the club.

They demand to speak to the leader of the theatre troupe, and when Woo-jin stands, they arrest him. Myung-hee learns that Woo-jin probably won’t be released for a few days, and that this is because of the line in their play where the lead says, “Ten years ago, we had freedom. But today, in this land, freedom no longer exists.”

Hae-sung argues that the script was approved, and the line was only speaking the truth. Nam-pa says softly that they’re being used as an example of what can happen when Koreans dare to talk about freedom.

At the police station, Woo-jin suffers repeated beatings at the hands of the officer who arrested him. When he’s finally released, he’s bruised and bloody, but mostly okay. Shim-deok is waiting for him at the station gates, and she cries when she sees how he’s been treated.

Kim Woo-jin’s journal, Trace of the Heart, entry date November 26, 1921:

Passionately, I listened to the curses put on my fate. She was the only safe haven in my life besieged by the Devil.

  
COMMENTS

Just lovely. I already adore everything about this show — the music, the costumes, the cinematography, and especially the casting (fun fact… Lee Jong-seok, Shin Hye-sun, and Lee Ji-hoon were in School 2013 together). For a show with such a sad, honestly foreshadowed conclusion, it had a lot of surprisingly light and sweet moments, which was nice because I’d worried I would spend the whole show thinking about how Woo-jin and Shim-deok’s romance ends. Instead I found myself just enjoying how sweet they are together, and appreciating how these two immensely talented people made the most of what little time they had.

I went into this knowing that it’s a true story with a tragic ending, but I didn’t know how tragic until I saw the first few minutes of this episode. I’m actually glad that the show tells us right up front what to expect, for two reasons. One, it’s terribly sad, but I won’t be anxious as I watch the remaining episodes because I already know exactly what will happen. And two, showing us Woo-jin and Shim-deok’s end gives all of their interactions an interesting melancholy flavor — we know they will experience an epic romance, but the knowledge of their final moments together colors events in a sad yet somehow lovely way.

I don’t know a lot about Woo-jin and Shim-deok’s true-life love story, but in the drama, their initial bickering was so much fun that I was eating it up with a spoon. It cracked me up how Woo-jin would deliberately wind Shim-deok up, and she would fall for it every time despite knowing better. I don’t blame Woo-jin, because Shim-deok is gorgeous when she’s all snapping eyes and pouty lips, and luckily for Shim-deok, Woo-jin’s cheeky smirk is deadly. Also, they’re both incredibly talented, and I know from personal experience that to artistically talented people, there’s nothing sexier than someone else with artistic talent. Once they got past their differences and started being nicer to each other, it’s no wonder they began falling hard.

Unfortunately, with only three hours in which to tell this story, the plot quickly moved from the cute falling-in-love stage to include some of the darker realities of the time period. The Japanese were occupying Korea, and there was little freedom to be had, as Woo-jin’s play pointed out. I have no doubt that this will continue to be a theme throughout the remaining episodes, and that it will be very hard to watch at times, but hopefully Woo-jin and Shim-deok’s love will shine some happy light into this very dark era.

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I still don't know why but my body rejects Lee Jongseok. I see him and a rage flares up inside of me. Because of that, I've never watched any of his dramas. This one is short and sounds interesting. I'll give it a try, hoping it will cure me of this weird condition I have. Thank you!

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I feel that way about Sung Joon. 😅

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I actually kind of get this. I do watch some of his dramas though.

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I still don't know why but I don't like Lee Jong Suk, either. And yet I've seen 2 of his dramas.

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Whoa. I thought I was the only one! And there's really no reason for it. It's just a feeling.

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I can't stand his plastic nose and beady eyes

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Couldn't you find some way to make your point that wasn't nasty and personal?

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No, since that the reason I can't stand watching him.

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Yes because he's the only actor in Korea who has plastic surgery on his nose ever. Keep being selective with your hate.

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All good. I really respect your opinion
However, this reminds me of a very popular saying in my country: do not let a tree stop you from seeing the forest.
Personally, LJS is my favorite actor. Not only because I like his ability to transmit emotions (his performance makes me laugh, cry, get angry or even feel a deep tenderness), but also because I liked the plot of the dramas he has chosen. He puts his heart in everything he does. I also like to read again and again how he is praised for being kind and considerate of others. Not in vain manages to get a wonderful chemistry with his castmates.
Obviously, it is not necessary that you agree with my opinion, but who knows, maybe if you do not concentrate only on that detail, at least you can give yourself the opportunity to see a beautiful drama or understand why others appreciate him.

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I like him, but do find his nose distracting. Much like PBG's lipstick...

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Haha, I actually kind of get this too. I answered @frabbycrabsis first. I like him though, but oddly enough I understand why you don't. I'm weird.

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@earthna How interesting! I am a little surprised to see so many here that don't like watching Lee Jong Suk. I do enjoy watching him in dramas, but I do not consider him to be much of an actor. He is just pretty much the same guy playing a different role without much change from role to role. I do consider him to be a model though, in nearly every move him makes, how he holds himself and interacts with others and even the expressions on his face. Even when he is not moving at all but just posed there. His voice and inflections are the same from character to character and the way he paces his words remains the same.
I really can understand why some people would not want to watch Lee Jong Suk as an actor. I saw him first in School 2013 and then in I can Hear Your Voice. I loved his character in both of those, so I enjoyed him there and I have continued to enjoy watching him in other dramas as well, even though I am not at all impressed with his "acting" skill.

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Which one of his dramas would you suggest for me to watch. I never liked him so I didn't bother. However, most of it is probably because I do not know him. I'm trying to change this thinking of mine. It would be too bad if I missed a good drama because I was avoiding an actor.

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My favorite was probably I Can Hear Your Voice, but it would really depend on what you like. I'm not much of a romantic, but in that drama he was a high school senior who loved an older woman that he had a bit of past history with and he was able to sometimes read what people were thinking. I liked that for the strength of his feelings for the woman. But you might not like that one. I also liked a science fiction type drama he was in called W. Many people didn't like that, but I found it entertaining and will watch it again some time. Other Beanies can probably guide you better than I can on this though as one of the things that draws me to particular actors is the sound of their voice and Lee Jong Suk has a soft, comforting voice that I like to listen to even though his acting is lacking. He also has a certain amount of "sex appeal" that he likely learned through his modeling career and that's always entertaining.

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Thanks! From the premise alone, I know it's not the kind of dramas I watch. Hmm.. Maybe it is that, then? His choice of project doesn't interest me and it's not really him. Now I'm confused.

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Actually, as I think about it. This drama that is written about here "Hymn of Death" is as good as any of his and it is short, so if you really dislike the guy, this is only about 4 episodes. :-)

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I will indeed start with this one. Thank you!

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I know you're directing this question to the comment above but I'll just chime in anyway. Try I Hear Your Voice and Pinocchio if you want good dramas, but his best work on a character, for me personally anyway, is in Doctor Stranger. I'd recommend Pinocchio for a starting point. Anyway LJS is one weird but charming guy so I understand the dividing opinions about him. I don't agree with the commentator above saying he doesn't act though. He might be measured but the guy is good at emoting.

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He was really good in Doctor Stranger and so, for that matter, was PHJ. But, damn, that drama was crap.

Also, LJS absolutely kills it at big emotions. He just needs a script to give them to him.

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Not sure if it's LJS or his management but they seem really good at picking projects. I've seen I Can Hear Your Voice, Pinocchio, W - Two Worlds and While You Were Sleeping. For the most part, I really enjoyed all those fantasy rom-coms. Plot-wise I liked WYWS the most and Jung Hae In is super cute!
W is written by Song Jae Jung ... as usual, it's a crazy ride that gets really twisted in the second half but I liked LJS the most in W. I absolutely believed that he was a manhwa character 😂
And of course his chemistry with Han Hyo Joo was amazing! (LJS typically sells the romantic chemistry really well but W felt like another level to me and from the BTS clips, it's obvious that LJS really liked her)

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I definitely recommend I Hear Your Voice over all others as that is overall a better drama in all aspects. It is that screenwriter's superior work, her follow-ups in Pinocchio and While You Were Sleeping did not quite grab me like that. W is written by the screenwriter of Memories of Alhambra and shares its weaknesses. It starts with a bang, sets up a great mystery but doesn't answer any of your questions in the end. So if you don't like Lee Jong Seuk you may not get much satisfaction out of those dramas.

Going back to I Hear Your Voice, I think that is a drama you can enjoy even if you dislike Jong Seuk. Lee Bo Young is fantastic in it, her character subverts a lot of tropes and watching her growth is a joy. Her relationship with her frenemy and other colleagues is amusing, with her mom very warm. The drama has a very compelling (if crazy) villain that makes the story exciting and interesting. There are unexpected twists and turns. So romance is not even the best part of that drama.

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PS. I died laughing at the I Hear Your Voice reference in Romance is a Bonus Book this week.

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PPS. I even love the soundtrack. Since I watched that drama one of the instrumentals has been my ringtone (Circus in Court Strings).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OttAj3op3yI

Brings back all the memories...

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Do they end up together in the end? I'm not really into romance involving a high school student.

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@earthna Oh don't let the high school part throw you off as he would be a really mature high school student, mature even for early 20's. But I am not going to tell you if they end up together or not.

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More importantly, the drama covers a fair bit of time and he is NOT a high school student all the way to the end.

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PS again. If we open the "moral objections" can of worms, I did not watch Hymn of Death as I don't like romance stories between people married to others.

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@moonbean which one is it (IHYV reference in RIABB)? why I didn't realize it?

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@zzthorn I see. That's good then. If it's on Netflix, I'll watch with my Mom. It will give me more encouragement to finish. Lol

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@SooHa I am sure it will be in the recap but it is in Episode 5, at the new book's marketing meeting. Eun Ho and Jae Min have a silent conversation regarding who hired Ji Yeul (the newbie girl with mommy issues). Jae Min thinks "who hired her?" Eun Ho thinks back "you did, for her specs". Jae Min astonished thinks back "Can you hear my voice?" 🤣

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@zzthorn and @earthna In fact he is much more mature than the heroine who is older. :)

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I really liked him in Pinnochio.. the backstory was so sad and I thought he did well for that role. :)

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Completely understandable, as I have this reaction to quite a few actors/actresses as well T.T Sung Joon, Kim Young Kwang, Park Shin Hye, Jung Yoo Mi (b. 1984)-- just to name a few

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Haha I kind of get you too!!
For me it is Park Si Hoo (even BEFORE 'the event')

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YES, his skeeze factor was off the charts even before that! Totally agree with you.

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Thank you @lollypip for the recap

The drama is too heavy for my taste but I enjoyed reading your recap.

Can't wait to find out their whole story

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@lollypip, thank you for the recap! I liked the drama and I liked reading your post about it

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Thank you very much for this nice summary!
I also love this short drama. It is a beautiful work of art. I read that the budget for work was small compared to other mega productions, but I still feel that they have nothing to envy. The work of each of the parties involved in this drama was exquisite (costumes, music, stage, photography, acting).
Knowing that it was a true tragic story is already very painful. But honestly, I felt deeply grateful and moved because they addressed these sensitive and deep issues with such respect and restraint.
It's a beautifully told tragic story. In this sense I say: I could feel the pain, the despair, the anguish of them. I could feel what they experienced, but at the same time without feeling that nobody was playing with my pains, anguish or whatever. I feel that the issues were treated with a lot of respect for the people involved, as well as for those of us who watch the program.
It's like when you see in the news about a tragic event. You will have some news that will inform you and will try to inform you the details to make known the truth of the situation. And it will also have those who, to obtain a higher rating, end up being sensationalist, showing heartbreaking scenes, using your feelings in favor of their own benefits.
That's why I love how this drama came about.

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I can't agree with you more. The cinematography, the music, costumes were just gorgeous. Would have never been able to guess that the production had small budget, never.

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I was disappointed that story won't focus on Shim-deok character more, I read about her before watching and she was much more interesting character than we were shown. I like Lee Jongseok, but this time I think he was miscasted.

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@shach I agree, I felt LJS was miscasted as well. I actually tuned in HoD to watch LJS (absolutely love him as an actor and watched many of his dramas ... from ICHYV to W and now the current one Bonus Book).
Not sure why though, LJS feels very modern to me. I had trouble staying convinced it was the 1920's whenever he started talking.
Overall, I think this mini-series was done very nicely but a different male lead with more of a 1920's period essence could elevate the show even more.

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I enjoyed this, particularly the costuming. Everyone was so beautifully dressed.

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I was starting to wonder if a recap for this short-drama would be done on Dramabeans, and I'm glad that it is :) There were bits and pieces and certain moments that I found jarring or a little disjointed in the drama as a whole, probably due to editing because of the limited episode count, but this was a really good watch and I actually ended up binging the whole thing on Netflix in one sitting XD Episodes 1-3 (so basically half of the entire drama) were actually my favorite episodes to watch

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The cinematography was done absolutely beautifully!
JSK and SHS had great chemistry. Hope to see them in a full drama some day!
I am so glad SHS is getting more projects! I've been excited to see her in more things since 17 but 30.
I am a sucker for freedom struggle time period dramas ! Loved Chicago Typewriter and loved to see Carpe Diem used as a club here too!

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Same! I’ve been on the lookout for Japanese occupation dramas since Gaksital, so of course I tuned into this one. It was nice to see Carpe Diem again 🙂
Thanks @lollypip for the recaps. And whoa, I totally did not notice that Shin Hye Sun was in SCHOOL 2013, one of my favourite dramas. Shame on me.

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You finally made the recap!!! Thank you @lollypip!
I'm also enjoyed their bickering. I know it would be a sad ending but I enjoy every movement between them and I'm happy that most of the episode is 'talking' about them.

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Thank you for recap. Was on my to-watch list for a long time but had to scrape it off due to so many dramas and so little time.
Thank goodness we have DB!

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I loved this show. Both characters were great.
I know that they cut out lots of historical bits but it was still amazing to watch.
The quotes from his journals are heart wrenching.

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Thanks @lollypip. I was so glad to see that this short drama would be recapped. It was both fun and sweet, yet melancholy and tragic. It was a beautifully made show. Although there was little in it besides the romance, it was never dull. The emotions themselves told the story somehow. The disappointment, anguish, despair, the resolve, the peace. Heart-rending and hard to forget.

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I watched this when it first came out and it was so good. I love the subtlety of their romance. I was also really interested in the time period and wish we had gotten to see a little more of the history, and what it was like to be in Japan during that time.

That being said, I with that this drama was a couple more episodes. The pacing was really fast and I wish there was more time to flesh out the story and each character.

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Not going to lie. I watched this last week because there’s only so many times you can rewatch four episodes of Romance is a Bonus Book.

It’s a whirlwind three hours, and I can only be more curious about the way Western philosophy was studied fervently by bright young students in Asian countries at the turn of the century and beyond, and the way it gave them a fever and ideas for their oppressed homelands. The other side, of course, as we see with our brilliant poet, playwright and literary critic, is that men like Nietzsche are not just current, but reflect a nihilistic sense of despair.

Ah, my heart aches.

I’m used to watching dramas set in Korea during this time period, so it’s fascinating to see something seemingly lighter and ‘normal’ in Tokyo. But of course, the undercurrents are still there, and it’s not something that can be ignored wherever they are.

Some of her recordings are easily found online, but I’ve been having more trouble with his writings. If anyone can point me in the right direction, I would be greatly indebted to you.

Thank you for covering this drama.

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Thank you, @lollypip, for recapping HYMN OF DEATH. This is the first I've heard of the drama. For the time being, I'll stick with reading your recaps as I'm not in the right mindspace to watch such a tragic true-life story. Having watched MR. SUNSHINE (but not GAKSITAL -- yet), I know what to expect from that dark time in Korean history. Thanks to your vivid descriptions and historical background information, I'm hooked, and will read the rest of your recaps. And once my danged winter blues let up, I'll watch it. Thank you for bringing another bit of early twentieth-century Korean history to our attention here on DB. ;-)

In a related vein, HYMN OF DEATH reminds me a bit of the 2011 MBC 2-part drama special THE PEAK. It is the story of poet and Korean independence activist Yi Yook-sa. Kim Dong-wan of Shinhwa appears in the title role. I've only been able to find the first part of it with subtitles. It came to my attention because Seo Hyun-jin portrays the poet's wife, IIRC. SHJ, director Lee Sang-yeob, and screenwriter Hwang Jin-young later collaborated on THE KING'S DAUGHTER, SU BAEK HYANG. Writer-nim penned the 2017 hit, REBEL: THIEF WHO STOLE THE PEOPLE.
http://asianwiki.com/The_Peak
http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20141119000783

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Because I have watched all the episodes, I'll only comment about LJS here as I think the topic about his acting is raised by many Beanies.

I've never really warmed to LJS's acting ever since I started watching his project. I first knew him when I watched I Hear Your Voice. I agree that that show is really great, but I don't think I did buy that romantic feeling between the leads that much. I also watched While You Were Sleeping and this show, Hymn of Death. I can say that I'm more warmed up to him little by little. I don't think he's good looking, but he's somewhat charming. I agree with a comment here saying that he gives me a feeling of being a model in every project he has been in.

Anyway, what I just found out is that LJS is just great in Romance is a Bonus Book. In terms of acting and the chemistry between the leads, he is at his best for me in RBB. I don't know if this is because he once said that Lee Na-young is his ideal type or anything, it's just this is the first time I think I can feel strong chemistry between him and the FL.

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