7 Ultimate Sad Songs: Korean Male Vocalist Edition

Saturday, January 07, 2017




There are many kinds of sadness, as far as I know. There is this kind of hollow sadness in which nothing in this world seems to be able to mend it or make you feel better; it feels as if emptiness is your only friend and meeting someone else couldn’t make any differences to it, and when you feel it then you feel like disappearing and being all alone in your cave and do not feel like meeting anyone. Then there is this kind of hysterical sadness in which nothing in this world seems able to stop you from crying your heart out; it is the kind of sadness when you need someone else to lean on and cry out loud. There is also a kind of melancholic sadness in which nothing in this world seems able to explain why you feel that way; you cry in silent, you feel lonely even in the middle of the crowd, you feel like something is missing and being taken away from you, and you feel like everything is meaningless. Furthermore, there are many other kinds of sadness. And there is this kind of beautiful sadness. It is like a tingling feeling you got when you watch a certain movie, look at a certain person, or listen to a certain song. There are some songs too that make me feel this kind of sadness every time I listen to them. Here is the list of seven saddest songs sung by Korean male vocalist as the third part of Ultimate Sad Songs series.

7. Emerald Castle – 발걸음 (Footsteps)

Emerald Castle's self-titled debut album cover | source: www.maniadb.com

Opening up the list on number seven is a song performed by Korean band, Emerald Castle, titled “발걸음 (Footsteps)”. It was first released in 1997 and has been covered by many Korean singers after, especially male singers. When I first acknowledged this rock ballad song from the famous variety show “Running Man”, I got stuck listening to it and keep playing it on repeat for weeks after. Though it has been covered by many, my favorite cover version is the one that is performed by Park Shi Hwan, the runner-up of Mnet’s “Superstar K5”. Lyrically, the song tells about a feeling of resentment, which is caused by a deep sadness and disappointment from a broken heart, and a will to erase the resentment. And the way to do that is by hating the person who caused us to feel the resentment in every of our footstep, since we cannot love them anyway. However, hating is just another form of loving; it is just a form of loving with a big amount of sadness and disappointment.



“From the beginning, for a person like you, I never existed, the way you didn’t to me. Remember, one day you’ll get hurt as much as I did. From someone other than me, you’ll get to feel the same pain. I’m sorry, this is all I can do, really, it’s the only way I can be. For that day to come, when I can start over like you. For me, who can’t love you, and can’t help but hate you.”

6. Lee Seung Hwan – 천일동안 (For a Thousand Days)

"Human: The Different Side" album cover by Lee Seung Hwan | source: www.maniadb.com

On number six of the list, I have a song titled “천일동안 (For a Thousand Days)” which is performed by one of Korean legendary balladeers, Lee Seung Hwan. It is Lee’s signature song which was released in 1995 as the title song taken from his fourth studio album, “Human: The Different Side”. This rock ballad track was written by Lee himself, with music composed by Kim Dong Ryul, and arranged by the world famous arranger, David Campbell. The song’s lyrics are talking about the deep footprints that are left by a memorable person in our life and how we struggle with those memories for a thousand days after the separation. It is so deep that even after a thousand days have passed by, the memories still linger on and we still remember it as clearly as just yesterday.



“During those thousand days, did you understand that I laughed and cried a lot with you? That I always watched over you, and was thankful for you who really loved me? I will miss you, even after another thousand days pass, of course I will do. Please don’t forget those beautiful names we gave to our love. During those thousand days, was it difficult for you? Did I ever hurt you by any chance? Please forgive me if I did, for it will be the last time I do so. After that day, I’ve been relieved, I’m just wondering how you’re doing. Even in the next life of ours, let’s never meet again.”

5. Park Sang Min – 하나의 사랑 (One Love)

"The Road" album cover by Park Sang Min | source: www.maniadb.com

This is a song performed by Korean legendary male singer, Park Sang Min, titled “하나의 사랑 (One Love)” on number five of the list. The soft rock ballad track was taken from the singer’s fifth album, “The Road” which was released in 1998. Park’s husky and sorrowful voice portraits the man’s pure love through this song, while the lyrics follow an unrequited love of a man towards a woman. It has this kind of magical power that making me feel an indescribable lingering feeling after hearing it as it speaks out the loneliness, joy, and sorrow that we achieve by holding the one unrequited love.



“Even though I’ve been trying to disregard it, you fill up my heart. And now I already know, you’re the one that I want. In the light of your eyes that behold me, I want to stay forever. I can’t bear being away from you when I love you this much. I’m staring at your back that moves further away as I approach. You will never know the sadness that seeps into my heart as I turn away.”

4. Lee Juck – 다행이다 (It’s Fortunate)

"Songs Made of Wood" album cover by Lee Juck | source: www.maniadb.com

A song titled “
다행이다 (It’s Fortunate)” by Lee Juck is up next on number four of the list. The rock ballad track was first released in 2007 as the lead single of the singer-songwriter’s solo third studio album. Written by Lee himself, the song is considered as his signature song, as it’s a classic that many of other singers make a cover of. Somehow I can definitely feel the sadness through this enchanting and heartwarming love song. Lyrically, it is a confession of a man who feels grateful for having his significant other coming into his life. It is so fortunate for him that he had this fateful meeting, that the destiny has brought them together, and that he is able to feel the love and understand what love really means.



“For meeting you and being able to touch your hair; for meeting you and being able to breathe while looking at each other; for getting to hug you and being able to let the tears flow when it gets tough, I’m so fortunate, for living in the beautiful world where you exist. In the violent wind and under a wet roof, I’m not getting tossed out there by myself. Wearisome daily life, toilsome survival, by some chances is not something meaningless. That’s because of having the amazing person, you, who always remain by my side.”

3. Kim Kwang Seok – 잊혀지는 (Being Forgotten)

The late Kim Kwang Seok's 10th anniversary memorial album cover | source: www.maniadb.com

As the starter for the big three of the list, here is a classic sung by the late Kim Kwang Seok, titled “잊혀지는 (Being Forgotten)”. The folk ballad track was first released in 1988 by a folk band named The Zoo (in Korean: Dongmulwon (동물원)) as a part of their first album. This song was later released by the late Kim Kwang Seok (who was a member of The Zoo, before going solo in 1989), in 1995. First time I got attracted to this song was when it appeared on 2013 KBS’ mini drama, titled “Adolescence Medley”. It was played during an emotionally melancholic scene which was so memorable because it well-captured the sadness of the poetical lyrics of the song. It was written by Kim Chang Gi (also a member of The Zoo) at the age of 23 and he was speaking about first love; about longing for the one that got away, someone from the past. In life, there are some people whom we are getting estranged from. Yet, among them, there’s one person who actually never leaves. There’s one person who always stays in our heart and has their own place in it. It’s not like we want to go back into the past or turning back the time, just that it’s fascinating how time could take us anywhere; how people come and go in and out of our lives and how the memories remain yet being forgotten at the same time.



“Saying the words of love, acting like we understood everything, whispering in beautiful stories we didn’t understand. Riding the gentle breeze in the golden dream, we were talking about tomorrow which seemed to be within the grasp of our hands. Like the nameless grass beneath the bright sun, we were satisfied just by being within each other’s sight. As time passed by, the dream shattered silently, and we drifted apart due to our immaturity. I’m longing for you, the presence that I can’t forget, and now you’re fading into memories. Love and pain are forgotten in time, and fall asleep in silence.”

2. Lee Seung Chul – 인연 (Fate)

"Phoenix" original soundtrack album cover | source: www.maniadb.com

On the runner-up position, I have a hit song from the Korean’s God of vocal, Lee Seung Chul, titled “인연 (Fate)”. This song was recorded and released in 2004 and served as an original soundtrack for the MBC’s hit drama series, “Phoenix”. The ballad track was written by the famous songwriter, composer, and music producer, Yoon Il Sang. My first meeting with the song was when I watched KBS’ music variety program, “Immortal Songs 2”, and I was so in love with this sad love song since then. Understanding the meaning of the song’s lyrics made me reminiscing about love, feelings, missed-chances, unfinished story, and everything in between. Love is about timing, and it needs just the right time to make it true. Sometimes, some people aren’t being separated because the love isn’t enough, but because the time just isn’t right. Sometimes, we never know what the future brings, and what the fate may take us to.



“I open my eyes and look for you, have you really left me? In all the looks you ever gave me, did you ever do it with love, even just once? Even if another love comes my way, it just won’t be easy. It’s too hard to endure as I wait for the one I’m destined for. Through the painful memories that can’t be erased, I miss you and yet hate you. I guess I loved you too much. I’ll regret it as much as I long to see you. If we’re destined to meet again through the fate, those sad tears will remain deep in my heart.”

1. SG Wannabe – 살다가 (As You Live)

"As You Live" album cover by SG Wannabe | source: www.maniadb.com

Finally, we come to the number one position. In here, I have the song titled “살다가 (As You Live)”, performed by the Korean vocal trio, SG Wannabe. The ballad track was first released in 2005 as the title song for the trio’s second album. Written by Ryu Jae Hyun, this song’s lyrics tell the story of a man whose life becomes a living-hell since his significant other left him. Daydream becomes nightmare and light turns into darkness. Truth to be told, this song was the reason why I decide to make the Ultimate Sad Songs series in the first place. There is no phrase that could depict this song better than “ultimate sadness”. Ever since the intro until the ending part, it is just epic sad; since there is nothing sadder than living this life with the unbearable pain and loneliness caused by longing for our significant other. It will haunt us as we live. And I cannot help but crying every time I listen.



“We laugh only because we have to; we live only because we have to. Even if you were next to me; even if you were next to me, I would still cry. As you live; as you live, if you have a hard time as you live, blame me until you become free from the sadness that I’ve caused. Burn it all; burn it all; if you burn but there’s still some left, as I live, you can burn it all until nothing’s left and you feel free.”

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