Yun Sim-deok

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Yun Sim-deok
Youn Shim-Deok.jpg
Background information
Birth nameYun Sim-deok
Born25 July 1897
Pyongyang, Korea
Died4 August 1926(1926-08-04) (aged 29)
Occupation(s)Singer, stage actress
Years active1924–1926
Yun Sim-deok
Revised RomanizationYun Sim-deok
McCune–ReischauerYun Sim-tŏk

Yun Sim-deok (Hangul윤심덕; Hanja尹心悳; 25 July 1897 – 4 August 1926) was a Korean singer.[1][2] She was the country's first professional soprano.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Yun was born in Pyongyang in 1897. She studied at the Pyongyang Girls' Middle and High Schools, and graduated from Kyongsong Women's Teaching College in Seoul in 1914. After graduation she became a primary school teacher in Wonju.[2]

After teaching for one year, Yun went to Japan, becoming the first Korean to study at the Tokyo Music School. In Japan, she met and fell in love with a married English literature student, Kim U-jin (Hangul: 김우진), with whom she had an affair.[3]

After graduating from music school, Yun returned to Korea, where she made her debut as a soprano in 1923. Though audiences were impressed by her powerful voice, she was unable to make a living performing Western classical music,[1] and became a pop singer and actress to support herself.[3]

Yun and Kim U-jin committed suicide together in 1926, jumping off of a passenger ship en route from Simonoseki to Busan. The shocking news caused a sensation in Korea, and Yun's 1926 recording of "In Praise of Death" (Hangul: 사의 찬미; also called "Death Song") sold a record 100,000 copies following her death.[3]


Yun's most famous recording, 1926's "In Praise of Death," is considered the first "popular" (yuhaeng changga) Korean song. It was recorded in Osaka by the Japanese Nitto recording company, with Yun's sister accompanying her on piano. The song is set to the tune of "Waves of the Danube" by Ion Ivanovici.[4]

Two films have been made about Yun. The first, a 1969 film titled Yun Sim-Deok, was directed by An Hyeon-cheol (Hangul: 안현철) and starred Moon Hee.[5] The second was a 1991 film called Death Song, directed by Kim Ho-sun and starring Chang Mi-hee. The film won numerous awards in South Korea, including Best Film at the 1991 Blue Dragon Film Awards and the 1991 Chunsa Film Art Awards.[6] A television series was also made in 2018 titled The Hymn of Death.[7]


  1. ^ a b Yu, Min-yeong (1995). "윤심덕(尹心悳)". Encyclopedia of Korean Culture (in Korean). Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  2. ^ a b Corfield, Justin (2014). Historical Dictionary of Pyongyang. Anthem Press. p. 231. ISBN 1783083417.
  3. ^ a b c d "Yun Sim-deok, Korea's First Professional Soprano". KBS World Radio. 2012-08-23. Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  4. ^ Lee, Young Mee,(2006), The Beginnings of Korean Pop, in Korean Pop Music: Riding the Wave, edited by Keith Howard (England: Global Oriental, 2006) p.3
  5. ^ "윤심덕: Yun Sim-deok". KMDb (in Korean). Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  6. ^ "사의 찬미: Death song(Sa-ui chanmi)". KMDb (in Korean). Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  7. ^ "Lee Jong-suk, Shin Hye-sun to appear in 'Hymn of Death'". Kpop Herald. November 2, 2018.