The desire to love and be loved compels Sim-deok and Woo-jin to seek other options they can take to stay in love and be together. While family is important to the both of them, their love for each other is bigger and more crucial.
Note: I’d just like to thank everyone who joined me in this short and interesting recap for ‘Praise of Death.’ The drama was pre-produced (I believe) and it was quite short as well with only 3 episodes, but I had a fun time watching it. Both Lee Jong-suk and Shin Hye-sun (especially Lee Jong-suk) were great in this and did a good job portraying Sim-deok and Woo-jin respectively. You can join me in my other recaps for ‘Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter’ as well as ‘Dae Jang-geum is Watching.’
Praise of Death/The Hymn of Death: Episode 3 & Final Recap
The final episode starts off with Woo-jin penning a few letters, but throwing them away out of frustration. A few days later, he receives a phone call while at his office. When he picks up, the other person on the receiving ends remains silent. Woo-jin assumes it’s just a prank call, but the silence persuades him to believe otherwise. He assumes the caller is Sim-deok, but before he can confirm anything, the caller hangs up. However, Woo-jin is indeed correct. The person on the other end was Sim-deok who called just so she could hear Woo-jin’s voice.
Woo-jin’s wife informs Dad about Woo-jin’s disappearance overnight. There has been no signs of Woo-jin at his work office or in his room. Dad storms over to Woo-jin’s empty room in the house and finds all the letters he and Sim-deok have exchanged with each other. Meanwhile, Sim-deok signs a contract with a record company based in Tokyo. She’ll be paid enough for each performance to send her younger sister to study abroad.
While walking home late at night, Sim-deok comes across Woo-jin waiting for her on the sidewalk. He approaches her and gives her a hug. Woo-jin will be traveling to Tokyo and he would like Sim-deok to accompany him. Sim-deok breaks down into tears upon hearing Woo-jin’s request. That evening, Woo-jin leaves for Tokyo first as there’s a few matters Sim-deok has to take care of first. Woo-jin teases Sim-deok and encourages her to make lots of money since he’s broke. Lol.
When Woo-jin returns home, he finds Dad and his wife waiting outside near a fire-pit full of letters. Dad has a meeting with Woo-jin and yells at him for disobeying his rules. Dad is severely disappointed that Woo-jin’s disappearances at work and acts of betrayal was because of Sim-deok. However, Woo-jin has no regrets or doubts about being with Sim-deok. He’s going to be with her, even if he’s poor and has no money. When Woo-jin exits the room, he encounters his wife listening from outside in the hallway. He apologizes to his wife before leaving.
Sim-deok ends her engagement with Hong-ki. Although news of their engagement has already been published in the newspapers, Sim-deok has no plans in actually going through with the engagement and marriage. She informs her family about her decision and will somehow find another way to make enough money to support both of her siblings. The CEO of the Japanese recording company that Sim-deok signed a contract with – CEO Lee – meets with Sim-deok after hearing details about her financial situation. He’ll give her some extra cash so that she can better support her and her family.
Woo-jin bids farewell with his staff and quits his position at the company. After leaving, Woo-jin’s wife visits Woo-jin’s empty room and checks the desk drawer where she had found Sim-deok’s hat hidden inside. As expected, the hat is no longer inside the drawer; Woo-jin’s taken it with him. Meanwhile, rumors that Sim-deok is in a secret relationship with CEO Lee spreads around town.
Sim-deok’s two siblings confronts Sim-deok about the rumors. They had heard that Sim-deok’s relationship with CEO Lee was what lead her engagement with Hong-ki to be cancelled and was also how Sim-deok was able to get some extra cash to support her siblings. Sim-deok is in disbelief at the rumors and runs outside of the house to grasp the situation. She tears up at the thought of the rumors.
Sim-deok is no longer able to record with the Japanese recording company because of the rumors. As she walks back home after the meeting, she receives awful stares from people and overhears harsh comments about her. Even flyers of Sim-deok are thrown in the trash. As if that wasn’t enough, Sim-deok is called to meet with the Education and Management Bureau Director of the Japanese Government. She’s dragged to his office to talk with him about a job opportunity that he’s willing to give to Sim-deok.
The government is willing to hire Sim-deok as a performing artist for their events and shows. With her singing, she’ll help the Joseon people realize the power and authority of the Japanese empire. Although Sim-deok rejects the opportunity at first since she already has a contract with another recording company, she reconsiders the opportunity when the director threatens her with her family. Oof.
Sim-deok’s parents encourage Sim-deok to accept the position with the Japanese government even if they might not necessarily like the idea. They need money somehow to feed themselves and survive. However, Sim-deok’s siblings disprove of the job and urges Sim-deok not to take the position. She shouldn’t stoop so low of a level just for some money. As mom and Sim-deok’s brother bicker back and forth, Sim-deok heads outside to catch some fresh air. Sim-deok’s sister confirms with Sim-deok their plans to meet in Tokyo so they can record a song. Sim-deok is also notified about a letter that was written for her.
The letter is none other than from Woo-jin. Sim-deok tears up as she reads the letter describing Woo-jin’s regrets about not traveling to Tokyo with Sim-deok. She must have been hurt from all the disgusting rumors about her; Woo-jin wishes he could have traveled with Sim-deok to protect her from all the lies and rumors. However, their separation only excites him even more and he can’t wait for the day to be reunited with Sim-deok once again.
In Tokyo, Woo-jin receives an unexpected and sudden visit from his wife. She urges him to return back home to take care of his ill father. Dad hasn’t been eating since Woo-jin’s left the house and only Woo-jin’s return can help Dad get better. However, Woo-jin has no plans of returning back home. Before leaving, Woo-jin’s wife reminds Woo-jin that it’s okay if he has no plans of fulfilling his duties as a husband. However, he should still fulfill his duties as a son and return home to his sick father.
Woo-jin visits the troupe right before their rehearsals at the theatre begins. They invite Woo-jin to stay and watch the rehearsals, but Woo-jin politely declines the offer. He just wanted to catch up and meet with the troupe for a short while. After leaving, Woo-jin ponders over what he should do and whether he should return back home or not. His passion has always been writing and he loves to write, but he should also remain loyal to Dad and return back home. While walking, Woo-jin encounters Sim-deok on the street. She’s finally arrived.
They sit at a bench at the park to discuss their future plans. Both Woo-jin and Sim-deok are in a dilemma. Woo-jin should return home to his father, but he won’t be able to write if he does. Sim-deok doesn’t want to sing for the Japanese government, but her family will die if she refuses their offer. As the two ponder over what to do next, the topic of death and peace comes up. Sim-deok is desperate to get some rest from all the chaos and stress; Woo-jin wants to live his life like how he wants even if that means death. Maybe they can rest in peace side by side.
Troupe member Hae-sung stops by Woo-jin’s room to visit him as they had agreed upon earlier that day. However, Woo-jin is no where to be found and only a note by Woo-jin is left behind. Hae-sung reads the note and is told to meet in Osaka in five days at the address provided in the note. Meanwhile, Sim-deok and Woo-jin finally have some time to themselves. They rent a room together, eat some delicious noodles with each other, and even take a romantic walk at the beach together. Being with Sim-deok allows Woo-jin to do what he does best. He writes a few poems in the room later on that evening and even recites a few poems with Sim-deok.
Sim-deok eventually records a song with the Japanese recording company as scheduled in Tokyo. Her sister is also there to help her by playing the piano for the song. Sim-deok is permitted to sing another song she’s titled ‘Hymn of Death’ before leaving the recording studio. In her farewell with her sister, Sim-deok notifies her sister to give Mom the stack of cash hidden in Sim-deok’s drawer. She also voices the word “goodbye” to her sister as her sister walks away. Though Sim-deok’s sister doesn’t find Sim-deok’s behavior suspicious, it’s obvious Sim-deok has something planned.
Hae-sung arrives at the address listed in the note he found back in Woo-jin’s room five days earlier. There, Woo-jin isn’t present either. Instead, a bunch of his writings rests on the table for Hae-sung to keep and read. So our couple finally embark on their last adventure together. While boarding the ship, they introduce themselves using their pen names and then enter afterwards. While staring out at the vast ocean surrounding them, Sim-deok worries if she’s forgotten anything at home. However, she hasn’t and neither has Woo-jin.
Later on that night, Sim-deok waits as Woo-jin finishes writing one last note. The two get ready to move forward with their plans, but Woo-jin has one last thing he wants to do first before they proceed. He grabs Sim-deok’s hat that she left behind at his house and places it on her head. Everything is complete so they can now continue as planned. The two head out to the balcony of the ship and look out at the raging waters. They decide to celebrate their love with one last dance since they weren’t able to before (they saved their last dance for each other T_____T).
So as Sim-deok and Woo-jin dance with each other on the huge and empty balcony, a poem written by Woo-jin is recited:
Your unforgettable name. Deep in my heart, your name is engraved, and I long for you.
You set fire to my heart. In my heart, you ignited the inextinguishable flame of love.
Before your name can be forgotten, I long for you again.
Oh, even at the moment of death, I shall call out your name. Even as I am living, my heart longs for you. Until the moment of death, I will long for you.
You set fire to my heart. In my heart, you ignited the inextinguishable flame of love, Sim-deok.
When our couple finishes their sweet and romantic dance, Woo-jin leans in to give Sim-deok a kiss on the lips. Afterwards, they walk over to the edge of the ship and jump off. The two can truly be together forever at last.
Why am I so sad even though I was already aware of the ending for our couple? Maybe it’s the fact that it was a sad ending and not the happy ending that we’re so used to seeing that the ending made me a little tearful and heart-broken.
However, it was a happy ending for Sim-deok and Woo-jin who were finally able to be together with each other once and for all. The things they weren’t able to do because they were tied down by their commitments and priorities – such as the dance or the kiss – were things they were only able to experience once they were finally left alone. How heartbreaking is it that they were only able to enjoy each other’s presence and the freedom that came with that once they let everything go? How sad is it that they were finally able to freely love each other and enjoy their time together without any judgments or family commitments only before ending their lives? How great and nice would it have been if Woo-jin and Sim-deok were able to be with each other and also be able to take care of their respective families.
However, as we saw, Woo-jin and Sim-deok were in two very different situations that prohibited the two from being together. Woo-jin’s dad disproved of his trips out of town and only wanted him to focus on the family business. Woo-jin’s strict relationship with his dad was what ultimately lead to his rebellious acts and eventually his death. Although it’s sad that it was only through death that Woo-jin was able to live the kind of life he wanted for himself, his dreams finally came true as he got to spend the last few remaining moments of his life with his true love. I think the same can be applied to Sim-deok whose position as the breadwinner of her family placed her in a difficult situation. There’s pressure for her to do well because her entire family is dependent on her and her small income. It’s a little saddening to think about Sim-deok’s family after her death considering just how much they depended on Sim-deok to provide for the family. However, Sim-deok and Woo-jin ultimately chose love over their families and it was a decision that they thought through thoroughly and was also a choice that they knew they wouldn’t regret. It also didn’t help that their families were the ones suffocating them and motivating them to want each other even more. As Sim-deok and Woo-jin’s family situations were tearing them apart, the struggles and challenges that arose out of these situations only prompted our two lovebirds to want to be together even more.
The inability to escape from their commitments and responsibilities in life compelled our couple to seek the only option left that would allow them to be together which was death. Since the drama is a dramatized version of the real love story between opera singer Yun Sim-deok and Kim Woo-jin, there’s not much one can critique about the original premise and storyline. The drama had to stay true to how things actually unfolded in real life for the two star-crossed lovers whose paths were merely meant to just cross, but never to actually stay. However, it was the execution of it all and how the drama told the true story that was going to be the hard part. I think for the most part, the drama did a decent job in portraying Sim-deok and Woo-jin’s complicated and complex relationship with each other. You could tell just how much they wanted to be with each other and why death was the only option left for Sim-deok and Woo-jin if they wanted to be together. As I mentioned, Lee Jong-suk and Shin Hye-sun did a fine job in bringing these characters to life and they played their respective characters decently.
Of course, the directing and cinematography was what really made the drama even better than it really was and I’m glad that the drama was so breath-taking. Since the premise and storyline isn’t so fresh and it’s something we’ve seen many times before in other K-dramas, the directing helped elevate ‘Praise of Death’ to be a much prettier and easier drama to watch. It was easy on the eyes, but it was also an easy drama to understand and to follow along. While the ending is not ideal of most K-dramas, I have to remind myself that this drama was based off Sim-deok and Woo-jin’s actual lives and forbidden relationship with each other.
I don’t even want to say that the ending was a sad ending, because I guess you can also interpret it as a happy ending. Our two star-crossed lovers who weren’t able to be together while alive were finally and hopefully able to love each other in the afterlife. They were able to seek that peace, rest, and happiness that they craved and yearned for only after they ended their lives. Maybe when you think of it from this perspective, Woo-jin and Sim-deok’s decision to spend the last few remaining moments of their lives with each other wasn’t that sad after all. Maybe and truly, love does conquer all as it did for our two main characters.
Bonus: Extra screenshots from the final episode~