Once Upon A Small Town
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 KakaoTV (2022) 12 Episodes
Romantic Comedy, Grade: A+
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

(Some Spoilers)

A darling, sweet, moral Korean drama filmed in the countryside, so that we can enjoy Korea's natural pastoral beauties for a change, instead of just the city of Seoul all the time, Once Upon A Small Town (2022) is kind of a simple romantic tale, but its simplicity is what makes it so charming and addictive to watch. A family with young children could watch this drama all together, there is nothing offensive here at all! The actors were all new to me, too, so that was refreshing -- enjoying some new faces happens rarely when you've watched over eight hundred and sixty Korean dramas since 2006! The lead male actor Choo Yeong Woo kept making me smile because he reminded me a little in appearance and mannerisms of a very young Shin Sung Rok, and the leading lady Joy kept reminding me of Goblin's Kim Go Eun (especially in her first scene in the drama, whoa! I really thought it was her at first! Even the voice sounded similar!).

The romance develops slowly here, so we get to see what makes these characters "tick" first, before any kiss ever takes place. Always helpful. I hate the more recent "InstaLove" Korean dramas -- they're too much like sleazy American television "romance" stories. Build your romance stories slowly again, Korea, like you did in the past! Other delights abound here in this story, for instance the main male character is a veterinarian, so we get to see all kinds of adorable animals in this story, farm animals, and especially cute doggies. What's not to love? The two leads actually get to help deliver a calf together. Awesome scene!

The Story:

We are introduced to an intense, quiet young man named Han Ji Yul (Choo Yeong Woo) who works as a veterinarian in a Seoul clinic he started, along with a friend, fellow vet Choi Yun Hyeong (Na Chul). His grandfather has been a veterinarian too, for decades, so a love of animals definitely runs in his family.

Suddenly one day he receives a distressed call from his grandfather, who lives and works in a countryside village named Huidong. They are cut off on the phone, and Ji Yul becomes concerned that something bad might have happened to Grandpa. He leaves his city clinic and hastily goes to Huidong, and once there, bangs on the locked walled gate to grandpa's animal clinic, but no one replies. Frantic, he screams out for his grandfather. Suddenly a female cop named Ahn Ja Young (Joy) grabs him from behind, yelling at him to stop. She thinks he might be a lunatic, but both calm down when the situation is explained and Ja Young tells Ji Yul that his grandfather and grandmother are away on a cruise to Europe! Ji Yul is shocked. His Grandpa had manipulated a situation to force Ji Yul to take over his pet clinic while he was away with Grandma to Europe. How dare he? Ji Yul feels used, but once inside the clinic finds a sweet letter from Grandpa explaining that he had promised Grandma fifty years earlier to take her on this trip to Europe, and wants to fulfill that wish before they die. Awww. What can Ji Yul say? No? Come back to Korea immediately and take over your clinic again? Of course not. Ji Yul calls fellow vet Yun Hyeong in Seoul and asks him to take over the city clinic for a few months while he stays in Huidong and works his grandfather's animal clinic.

As time goes on Ji Yul and Ja Young are thrown together on multiple occasions, especially when animal emergencies happen in the town. They have arguments on occasion but there is obviously an affection and attraction growing between them, though both deny it to themselves for quite some time. Ja Young is a very dedicated female cop and helps out all the villagers at the drop of a hat. Why should her approach to new resident Ji Yul be any different?

Ji Yul also has competition in the possible romance department caused by Ja Young's long time friendship with a local farmer named Lee Sang Hyeon (Baek Sung Chul); the two men definitely experience some friction between themselves as time goes on, though their acquaintance started off nicely enough. Who will have the guts to admit their true feelings to Ja Young first?

Some levity is added to the story through the local townspeople characters, who are gossips, though definitely well-meaning ones! I particularly enjoyed seeing veteran supporting actors Jung Suk Yong, playing Ja Young's superior at work, and Baek Ji Won, a lady with a marriageable daughter she'd would like to set up with some attractive dude, native to the town, or otherwise. These two actors actually played husband and wife in Beautiful Mind (2016), with Jang Hyuk, so it was nice to see them in the same scenes together in this drama years later. (I saw them both in Extraordinary Attorney Woo as well!). Other romances bloom in secondary characters as well, most delightfully between Yun Hyeong, Ji Yul's vet friend in Seoul, and his assistant, though of course our eyes are mostly focused on Ji Yul and his growing love for Ja Young.

Truly, if you, like me, are getting tired of all the dark themed K-dramas today focusing on crime and evil, and you long to see wholesome characters again who behave morally, then definitely put Once Upon A Small Town on your K-drama Queue List. You will love it! Plus, at only 12 episodes of about 30 minutes each, you could settle in comfortably for an evening and marathon the whole enjoyable show!