On August 4th, 1926 we see a ship sailing with Japanese flag at 4:00 AM. One of the sailors who is probably taking a watch knocks on one of the cabin doors. He enters the room when he receives no response. The room is empty but a record is playing some sad piano music. A watch, pen and some money is left on the table. He also finds a luggage bag and a letter saying, I’m sorry but please send my luggage back home. Alarmed, the sailor rushes out of the room to the deck only to find two pairs of shoes abandoned neatly near the railing. He blows his whistle to wake up the others on the boat.
We flash back to Tokyo, 1921.
Kim woo Jin, ( Lee jong suk) reads and approves a play ‘Kim Young Il’ s death’ written by his friend Jo Myung Hee. Myung Hee is very happy when Woo Jin confirms that they can use the material in their next tour in Joseon. The other members of their association Hong Nan PA () and Hong Hae Sung are excited that the play is confirmed. Hong Nan Pa tells them that if people hear them celebrating they might think their country has been liberated.
They look like an association of Joseon students studying in Japan. They sit down for discussion and Woo Jin tells them that they have three plays for their tour. He explains that apart from being a fund raiser for their arts association, these plays will help motivate the Joseon people.
Hong Hae Sung walks in a pink dress and a wig complaining why should he be the one to play the girl when they actually have a female member on the team. Myung Hee teases him saying he’s the best at imitating a woman.
The girl, Han Ki Joo, tells him that since she is in charge of the piano she can’t be playing a role.
Hong Nan Pa offers an alternative suggestion saying there is actually some one else they can ask to play the role.
Else where, Yun Sim Deok (Shin Hye Sun), a music student is practicing a soprano song with her conductor and a pianist. Her conductor, who speaks Japanese, stops her in between the song and asks her for the meaning of the lyrics. Sim Deok too, replies in Japanese.
” I will wait for him with unwavering trust.”
The conductor tells her that the song is about a woman who is yearning and waiting for her lover. She doesn’t even know when he is coming back. The conductor asks Sim Deok to not sing the song cheerfully.
She continues to ask Sim Deok if she has ever yearned for someone she loved. Sim Deok answers no and her teacher tells her that a song without the sincerity of the singer is fake and tells her she will understand the meaning of the the song one day.
After her class Hong Nan Pa meets her as she walks out of the building. She tells her about their association of students from Joseon and that they are performing in Joseon itself the coming summer. She asks for the purpose of their association and Nan Pa tells her that that they want to raise funds for building a hall and also to promote new plays and western music for the enlightenment of Joeson people.
Sim Deok says that she isn’t sure about it as it sounds a little dangerous ( Joseon was a colony of Japan.) Nan Pa asks her to just stop by and watch and tells her that she can decide after that. Sim Deok takes the address he gives her and tells him she will stop by.
She goes to the address Hong Nan Pa provided her. She wonders for a minute before going into the building. She reaches the room but hesitates when she hears someone reading a book inside.
It’s Kim U- Jin. He is reading something along the lines of
‘Love is powerful and underestimating it as a gentle strength is a mistake. Love is something you use to your advantage. To Love is to take unsparingly.’
Sim Deok walks in saying that she disagrees. She doesn’t understand how taking unsparingly can be considered love. She tells him that true love is giving unsparingly no matter what.
U – Jin looks mildly taken aback at her arrival.
Sim Deok asks him why he is reading a Japanese book in Korean. Woo Jin tells her to answer why she barged in without his permission. Sim Deok replies that the door was open.
U- Jin tells her he didn’t leave it open nor did he give her permission to come in. Offended, Sim Deok apologizes for interrupting and turns to leave. Hong Nan Pa arrives right then and asks Sim Deok if they have introduced each other already. When they remain silent he introduces the duo to each other. We learn that Yun Sim Deok is 25 and a vocal music major in
Ueno college of music. She bows to U-Jin half heartedly. U-Jin too is 25 years old and he is an English literature major from Waseda University.
Hong Nan PA notes that they are both the same age.
U-Jin let’s out a sigh and extends a hand to Sim Deok saying it’s nice to meet you. Sim Deok doesn’t take his hand but replies that she begs to differ. Both their eyes shoot daggers at each other. U Jin now that he knows who she is tells her that he is heard that is good at signing and that she has done a few plays. He tells her that he’d like her to be in their play. Sim Deok refuses before he can finish the sentence making U-Jin’s eyebrows shoot up. She tries to leave after telling that she doesn’t have the time for it.
U-Jin tells her that if she was Korean she should be doing anything and everything for her country.
Sim Deok tells him that she barely managed to come to Japan to study music that too with the Governments money. She asks U Jin if he would take responsibility if she failed to became a Soprano.
U-Jin asks if she is going to ignore her country so that she can live a good life. Sim Deok replies that the country is already a mess so at least she should live a good life.
U-Jin says her to do as she pleases since he doesn’t think she will be good at acting considering her major. Flared up Sim Deok says she’ll do it. However she says that she had two conditions.
Later at their association meeting U-Jin discusses it with the other members. Sim Deoks condition were that she’ll perform but only sing in the plays and then if she gets into any trouble she’ll quit immediately. The others wonder if they have to work with her but U – Jin says that songs will enrich their play. Hae Sung looks dejected as he has to continue playing the female role. U Jin informs them that Sim Deok will join them from their next rehearsal. Myung Hee wonders what kind of a person she is and Nan Pa says she is out spoken and is a good person. They wrap up the meeting and U Jin ponders what he thinks of her.
At night, Sim Deok laments to her Japanese pianist friend about how unreasonable U- Jin was. Her friend worriedly asks if she really wants to do it considering that it is dangerous and all.
Sim Deok says she is doing it to see how good his play is for him to be looking down on her. She says that she wants to show him how good she is at signing.
U-Jin arrives home and his land lady brings him a letter saying that his father must be sweet as her writes to U-Jin every day.
His father has sent him money and the letter is stern asking him to not read useless books and to not even put them on his table. U-Jin’s father says that he allowed U-Jin to study English literature as per his wish so once his studies are done he should come back and live his life according to his dad’s wishes. U-Jin sits before the letter thoughtfully.
At rehearsal, all the association members are enraptured at Sim Deok’s singing. They all look at her unblinkingly and only U-Jin seems uninterested as he stands facing the opposite direction and minding his own business. Sim Deok looks at him repeatedly as she sings but behaves as I’d he is least bothered. When she finishes her song the others applaud her and some of them are even on their feet but she is slightly sulky as U-Jin didn’t turn around even once.
U-Jin tells Nan PA that the collaboration of the the song with their Pianist was fine but it was sad. He says he wants it to be cheerful. He tells ki ju that she did an amazing job though. Sim Deok looks at him expectantly but he simply tells the members that the musical session is over and they should move on to the play. He introduces Kyosuke Tomoda, a Japanese guy as part of their team.
They start rehearsing and Hae Sung in his female get up has to hug the guy who play the lover. U-Jin stops in between and tells him that his face doesn’t look like someone who is hugging a lover. Hae Sung whines that he can’t do it and U-Jin threatens that he ll make him do worse things if he doesn’t do it properly. That gets Hae Sung to obey and he goes back to hugging the other guy saying I Love you. U-Jin smiles at the antics and at same time Sim Deok stares at him angrily for ignoring her.
U-Jin tells the team that they can wrap up and leaves out swiftly. Sim Deok too starts to leave only to be stopped by Hong Nan Pa who asks her to have dinner with him. She refuses saying she has an axe to grind with someone and leaves. Outside she doesn’t find U Jin as he has left already.
Behind her there is a man watching the building suspiciously.
Sim Deok walks into a noodle place and finds U Jin there. He turns around and looks at her but continues to eat without a word. She looks for seats elsewhere but every other seat is taken except the one next to him. She sits next to him grumpily. U-Jin orders a bowl of noodles. Sim Deok crossly tells him that she never said she was going to have that. U Jin curtly replies that it’s for him. She tries to order her own and U Jin says he was kidding and it’s for her. Sim Deok looks at him annoyed and burns her mouth trying to eat the hot noodles. U Jin moves his water next to her and continues to eat.
After drinking her water she asks him why he left hurriedly and U Jin replies he was hungry. Sim Deok asks him how he knows about this place and he says every Korean living in Tokyo knows this place.
She continues to eat and U Jin tries to leave after paying. Sim Deok grabs onto his wrist tightly but is unable to say anything with a mouthful of noodles. She asks him to wait as she has something to say to him. He looks at his hand that she just grabbed..
They go for a drink and U Jin asks her what she wanted to say. Drunk Sim Deok asks him why he has been belittling her ever since they met. She asks him why he is treating her like a pathetic girl who doesn’t care about her country. He says thats not true. She asks him what good would it do by playing western music and plays in their country as they have already lost their country.
He says that he is trying to hold on to his country in his own way. U Jin says that even though their country is being trampled upon he wants to show that their spirit is alive. He asks if she doesn’t sing for the same reason.
Sim Deok asks why he didn’t say anything about her performance when he appreciated others. U – Jin says that he had nothing to say because it was very beautiful. Sim Deok listens to him intently. He tells her that when they first met she asked him why he was reading a Japanese book in Korean. He answers now saying that it is so that he doesn’t forget he is Korean. He leaves to pay the tab and Sim Deok wonders why he didn’t say it sooner.
At the next rehearsals Ki Ju the pianist calls Sim Deok who is busy looking at U Jin. Sum Deok wonders how they are covering the cost of the rehearsals. Ki Ju says that they all pitch in but U Jin bears most of it from his own expense money he receives. Sim Deok thinks about how Nan Pa told her that U Jin s passion for writing plays knew no bounds. At night we see that U Jin is up writing and Sim deok is in bed wondering about him unable to go to sleep.
In a rainy day, U Jin doesn’t show up to a rehearsal. Sim Deok waits till everyone else shows up and finally when she is unable to take it anymore, she goes and asks Myung Hee if something is up with U Jin since he’s been absent for 2 days. She says since the director isn’t here she’s worried about the show.
Myung Hee asks her not to worry and tells her that U Jin will be back once he is better. Sim Deok surpriseddy asks if he is sick. Behind them Nan Pa grows sad watching her concern for U Jin.
Sim Deok walks to U Jin’s neighborhood under an umbrella. The landlady shows her to U Jin s room and leaves. Sim Deok knocks on his door but she doesn’t get a reply. She let’s herself in only to find him sleeping soundly.
She checks out the room and sees all his books piled up in a corner. She picks them up and puts them on his desk. She find the poem penned by him and starts reading it. It’s about his wounds and how if he were a child it would be easier. It is signed Soosan and Sim Deok wonders who Soosan is. Startling her U-Jin asks her what she is doing.
Sim Deok assures him that she knocked and didn’t barge in. She tells him she brought him porridge since he’s sick and it’s terrible to be sick when alone and away from home. She stops prattling when she sees him staring at her wordlessly. She says he should still eat it as they need him back at the studio. He sees the books on his table and Sim Deok murmurs that a writer should keep his books on the table not on the floor.
U Jin simply asks her to leave and she replies that she will when the rain stops as she didn’t bring an umbrella. He asks her if she walked all the way here in rain. Sim Deok replies that it wasn’t raining when she came. He says he ll lend her his umbrella but she refuses saying she doesn’t like borrowing.
U Jin looks out the window and says it has You araining. Sim Deok leaves reluctantly. U Jin watches her walking in the street from his window with the umbrella in her hand. He smiles. He sits down to eat the food she brought and looks at his table now piled up with books.
At the rehearsal Nan Pa asks Sim Deok where she went. She lies that she went to get some fresh air.
U Jin arrives and the members are happy to see him. Myung Hee asks if he is alright and he replies yes thanks to someone’s special treat. He doesn’t elaborate further even after being asked but smiles at Sim Deok who smiles back at him.
Later that night Sim Deok tells him that Myung Hee told her that he falls sick always this time of the year.
He tells her that it’s his mother’s anniversary and he doesn’t want to explain it to others so he tells them he is sick. U Jin says that his mother died when he was 5 and his father remarried 3 times since. U – Jin says he has very little memory of his mother and he tries to hold onto what little he has so he takes a few days off.
Sim Deok says his mother would be very happy since he loves and yearns for her. She also says that the poem she read was incredible and would like to read more of his works. She asks him to write plays since he likes them. He looks at her and says that he likes it. She gets flustered for a second and he continues that he does like plays. Embarrassed, Sim Deok tries to leave saying they should get back. He thanks her for picking up the books. Sim Deok asks him about the porridge saying she thought it was good. He replies that he begs to differ. She complains that she made it specially for him and he says that he is just mimicking her from the other day( when he said glad to meet you.) That puts a smile on her face.
At the next rehearsal the Japanese police come knocking on the door. He harshly asks them if they are Korean. Kyosuke Tomada comes up and tells them that they are all students rehearsing for a play. The officer asks him if the others are Korean. U-Jin comes up and tells him that they are Korean in Korean. The officer demands him to speak in the native language (Japanese) and U – Jin says he is speaking in his native language. Annoyed the officer pulls his gun out and points it toward U-Jin. U Jin stares back unfazed. Kyosuke puts himself in between and tells the officer that U-Jin s Japanese isn’t fluent yet.
The officer drops the hand and tells him that Koreans are gathering and creating ruses nowadays and orders his men to search the place. He snatches the script of Kim Young Il’s death from U Jin’s hand and examines it. Then he kicks the things around with utter disrespect. U-Jin gets angry but Kyosuke restrains him. When they find nothing suspicious the officer warns them that the Koreans will be severely punished by Japanese law if they cause any trouble. He leaves after shoving U-Jin angrily one last time.
They clean up the mess created by the Police and then the team sits down to discuss their options whether to continue or stop the rehearsal. Ki Ju says that they should stop since she is a little scared. Hae Sung and Nan Pa too try to stop the rehearsals despite U Jin’s assurances. Sim Deok asks them why they are being such cowards. She cheers them up and says that the director said they ll be fine so they should just continue. She asks Hae Sung to go put on the dress and that relaxes everyone. They all get back to rehearsing and U-Jin looks at her with a relieved smile.
When they walk back home Sim Deok thanks U Jin for he had changed the way she thinks as she didn’t think she could change anything. But now she understands that trying to change with hope is what matters.
U-Jin thanks her for understanding his sincerity and it makes her smile. He smiles back at her without hesitation.
At the rehearsal the other guys are having fun putting makeup on Hae Sung. He runs around chasing Kyosuke. Meanwhile wordless glances and cheery smiles are shared between Sim Deok and U-Jin.
The members take a group photo and Sim Deok sits next to U-Jin. Later at the meeting U-Jin tells them that they’ve been working hard for the past two months and that they will will be leaving for Joseon the next day. He tells them that they ll be performing in over ten cities. He thanks Kyosuke Tomoda for all the help and he wishes them with good luck.
They travel to Joseon on a ship and Sim Deok comes to stand next to Woo Jin on the deck. She tells his that she left from Joseon on a sunny day similar to that day with a lot of excitement. She tells him that she feels the same excitement today as she is going to perform in her mother country for the first time. The camera pans out and we see they are standing closer to each other than in the beginning.
In Joseon they distribute their invites on the streets themselves. Their performance brings tears to the Joseon people who watch their plays. The troup travels to different cities for their performance. Sim Deok falls asleep on train ride and U-Jin stops himself from moving her head towards him.
Their play Kim Young Il’s death has nationalistic content and among the audience are some officials of the police. Once the play is done it s time for Sim Deok’s performance. She is very nervous but U Jin encourages her to perform just the way she did at the rehearsal. She gains her confidence back and delivers the song beautifully.
After their performance they celebrate at a cabaret with some drinks. U-Jin drinks quietly in a corner while Sim Deok seems to be enjoying the surrounding. Myung Hee asks U-Jin how many years he has until graduation and U-Jin replies that he has 3 years. U-JIN goes silent when Myung Hee asks what he is planning to do after graduation. Myung Hee wonders if he should not have asked that question as he understands that he has to go back to his hometown. U-Jin asks Myung Hee about his plans and myung hee says that would like to see a broader world, a faraway place which isn’t Joseon or Japan. U-Jin tells him that no matter where he goes Myung Hee will become a great writer. Myung Hee says the same goes for U-Jin if he keeps writing.
In the meantime U-Jin is unable to take his eyes off Sim Deok. Hae Sung asks Ki Ju to dance with him during the slow dance. She agrees with a little surprise and excitement. Sim Deok watches U-Jin who is a few tables away and determinedly gets up only to be stopped by Hong Nan Pa who swoops in front of her and asks her for the dance. She seems hesitant but he takes her to the dance floor anyway.
Myung Hee asks U-jin if he is sad since their last performance is over. U-jin confirms that he is going to miss every single moment they spent together. He looks at Sim Deok slow dancing with Nan Pa in an embrace intently making Myung Hee wonder what he is staring at. Sim Deok has eyes only for U-jin and Nan Pa asks her whether she likes U-jin or if she is in love with him. Startled Sim Deok pulls back and wonders what he is talking about. Nan Pa tells her either way she should stop now or her pain will become only greater as her feelings grow.
Before Sim Deok could ask what he means the club is stormed with police who were watching their play. They cause a ruckus and ask for the leader of the Troup that finished their play. U-jin steps up only to be dragged away by the Police. Sim Deok looks alarmed and U Jin looks at her as he is being taken away.
Sim Deok and the others wait nervously for any news on U-jin. Myung Hee arrives and tells them that it doesn’t look like they would let him out that day. Dejected Sim Deok and the others leave one by one. Sim Deok waits in front of the police station that day and the next looking eagerly everytime the door opens. But she is disappointed when it isn’t U-jin. U-jin on the other hand is being beaten up by the cops in one of the dingy cells. On what looks like the third night, U-jin is walks out of the police station, his under shirt drenched in his blood and barely hidden in his waist coat. He comes to a stand still when he sees Sin Deok outside the walls. She looks at his state and the tears start to fall as she breaks down.
We know where this is headed from the very first scene so no point in hoping for a happy ending.
The 1920’s was a strenuous time for Korea and let’s not forget that this is a real life story of Yun Sim Deok the first Korean soprano and her lover Kim Woo Jin. This story has been adapted into movies time and again but this is the first version for me.
Yun Sim Deok is the complete opposite of Kim Woo Jin. Despite being the same age she displays a playful stubbornness which he obviously finds endearing. It’s evident that he fell for her at first sight and that is why he pushes her out the moment he realized it. There is more to his story as to why he tries to not fall in love but we see none of that in this episode.
We see some of his hardships back home, a stern unbending father, the loss of his mother and the fact that he has to stop doing what he loves the most, writing. The pain of what his future holds is brimming in his eyes.
Yun Sim Deok sounds cheery like a normal college student, blunt in nature when she feels it’s necessary. Her liking U-jin is pretty evident from the way her eyes followed the back of his head throughout her song hoping for some approval. Shin Hye sun has done really well with the role.
Other roles have very less weight against the leads yet they do well. Hong Nan Pa, we are not sure if he is well meaning or if he is in love with Sim Deok. Myung Hee, Jae Sung and the other members of the drama Troup are an adorable lot.
The love story is just developing and we have a lot more ground to cover in just 2 more episodes.