A slice-of-life Korean drama about three college-aged friends with very different personalities and family backgrounds, At A Distance, Spring Is Green (2022) was based on a web-toon by Ji Nyoong, one which contained only a little romance, but a lot of complex ideas about what constitutes a deep and lasting friendship. The three main leads, Park Ji Hoon (The King And I), Kang Min Ah (Jang Ok Jung, Living In Love, Memorist), and Bae In Hyuk (XX) were all attractive in their own ways, and all of them gave good performances. The promotional posters on the internet gave a suggestion that this drama might be gay themed between the two male lead characters, but when you watch the actual drama you see that it is not. They end up more like loving brothers. I thought that promotion with the posters was deceptive and I didn't like it very much. Be honest with your audience, drama producers.
The son of a wealthy family, blonde haired, pop-idol styled Yeo Joon (Park Ji Hoon) is a freshman college student at Myeongil University, majoring in economics. His personality on the outside is charming, but inside he covers up some serious emotional wounds from parental neglect and paternal abuse. He's never really had a true friend and hopes to find one in a college setting while living away from home for the first time.
Since he had had a big web following of online "friends" it seems everyone adores him when he finally arrives on campus, but he really wants just a few special friends, not a large group of strangers accosting him and screaming for his attention every time he is out in public.
In contrast, we meet Nam Soo Hyun (Bae In Hyuk), a third year economics college student with straight A's, but with a very cold personality on the outside, unlike Yeo Joon. Because his father died when he was young he struggles financially, working at several part-time jobs, such as convenience store clerk and holding up signs promoting local restaurants, to put himself through college, and to support his widowed mother and young brother. He is very lonely, having decided to close his heart off toward new people in his life because they've disappointed him so often. The first time Yeo Joon and Soo Hyun meet Yeo Joon accidentally spills coffee all over Soo Hyun's legs while he is working. Yeo Joon is apologetic but Soo Hyun tells him to get lost. When Yeo Joon offers to pay for his ruined clothes Soo Hyun scoffs, knowing this blonde kid is rich and thinks money can solve everything: "I don't take money from a human ATM machine."
On a happier note, Yeo Joon meets kind third year business major Kim So Bin (Kang Min Ah) on separate occasions and can't help feeling drawn to her. She stares at him a lot, maybe because of his blonde hair, and he jokes, "Do you like me?" which scares her off. (Kang Min Ah kept reminding me of the young actress Su Jeong Im, from A Tale Of Two Sisters, in appearance on screen).
So Bin works hard preparing for her upcoming TOEIC test, and initially doesn't think she has much time to make new friends, but fate keeps pushing Yeo Joon, and Soo Hyun, whom she has butted heads with in the past, into her life, and she can't help feeling attracted to both of them in different ways. Soo Hyun even saves them both when a bully tries to hurt them on the street, and he punches the jerk out. When Yeo Joon smiles and jokes, "Did you do that to save me?" Soo Hyun's face becomes inscrutable and he claims he only did it to save a lady.
Even though Soo Hyun seems like the stronger personality, So Bin keeps finding herself more drawn to the gentle, smiling Yeo Joon. A misunderstanding in their past keeps So Bin from fully appreciating Soo Hyun, despite his proven chivalrous nature when she's in trouble. It seems that the issue was over an email that had ended up in Soo Hyun's spam folder and So Bin thought he didn't care about her because he had not responded to her. Once he realizes what happened Soo Hyun is man enough to apologize and So Bin feels warmer toward him.
Despite their tenuous beginning, the two boys Yeo Joon and Soo Hyun end up studying together, and eventually begin to accept each other for who they are as people. Soo Hyun begins to see past Yeo Joon's outwardly rather flamboyant exterior to the hurting person underneath. He begins to understand how much his hurtful family situation had made him in need of a true friend.
Although they are opposites in every way in personality traits and family backgrounds, Yeo Joon and Soo Hyun continue to reach out to one another, and their friendship ultimately proves solid, which is kind of a miracle to watch unfold. Yeo Joon will especially need a steady friend soon, as the University hires a problematical class lecturer named Jun Wan (Na In Woo) whom Yeo Joon has shared a dark history with in the past.
Meanwhile, So Bin grows more romantically inclined toward Yeo Joon (frankly, I would have picked Soo Hyun, lol!), but will Soo Hyun feel any jealousy toward their relationship since he seems to find her attractive, too? Can two guys maintain a strong friendship when they both like the same girl?
I liked this drama overall, there were many poetical moments, often utilized through touching voice-overs and lovely cinematography. I would have changed a few things in the script, but then again I wasn't in charge, and I'm not Korean, so it doesn't matter. ;)
If you like college campus dramas then this one is worth checking out, and it's short too, at only 12 episodes, so it won't waste your time like some of the longer, long-winded dramas do. I've liked other college campus dramas better, but this one is above average on the points I've already mentioned. It's nice to see growing friendships as the main focus of a K-drama for a change, and not just romance. You can enjoy At A Distance, Spring Is Green at Viki, as of this writing. Enjoy!
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