When was the most colorful season of your life? For someone who’s almost past the third decade of my life – I say nothing beats the cool breeze and vibrant noise of my 20s.
The intro to the Korean Drama “At a Distance, Spring is Green” felt exactly like that: University entrance cramped with new faces of the freshmen, college buildings beautifully decorated with “Welcome” tarpaulins, and hustling student officers running to and fro.
Then we find the good-looking and happy-go-lucky freshman, Yeo Jun, walking up the steps and surrounded by ladies marveling at his bright smile. He says it’s the easiest thing to do in life – making friends. But right after, he’s shown curling up on his couch back home – alone and looking miserable.
Then there was Nam Soo-hyun holding up a sign for a sushi restaurant in the middle of an alleyway. People began running for shelter when the rain started showering, but he remained there standing and still holding tightly on the same sign amidst the rain. After overhearing a young couple deciding where to eat, he says dating or leisure is a luxury for someone like him who can barely scrape by and doesn’t have any free time.
Lastly, Kim So-bin came into frame – an ordinary girl sticking her nose in a book inside a gloomy library. She looked dejected as she remembered her high school teacher saying the hours one spends on studying will determine his grades. She says she only knew how to put in the hours but even that is not enough anymore. Looking at how the book’s letters danced before her eyes, I think she may have a condition that makes it difficult for her scores to reflect all her hard work.
“At a Distance, Spring is Green” is a slice-of-life and coming-of-age Korean Drama based on the webtoon of the same name. With the theme of “Life is a comedy from a distance, but a tragedy up close”, this Korean drama series aims to bring a realistic representation of youth – the colors and grays that those who are in their 20s must go through each day despite the presumed beauty of being young. It centers around the life of the foregoing characters, their personal struggles, and I believe, how they will be able to withstand and survive their adversities in life with the support of each other.
Here’s a short introduction of the main characters:
Yeo Jun (Park Ji-hoon)
The most popular Business Management freshman of Myeongil University, Yeo Jun, is loved by everybody because of his bright demeanor and sense of fun. He seemed to have everything he needed to enjoy life – a pretty face that stands out, a wealthy family to support a comfortable life for him, and a crowd of people who adore him. However, behind his radiant character hides a traumatic past and his longingness for a true friendship and belongingness.
Kim So-bin (Kang Minah)
Kim So-bin is a hard working, Business Management Junior who struggles to live even just a normal life. Despite her efforts and hard work in studying, she always gets mediocre results. She’s very timid and always mindful of how others think. She’s a complete social outsider but she has a long-time male friend to whom she is secretly in-love with.
Nam Soo-hyun (Bae In-huk)
The “ultimate psycho” who never smiles – this is what Nam Soo-hyun is referred to by the students. He’s the involuntary superman who works multiple part time jobs to afford college and provide for his family. For him, his emotional needs are a luxury so he doesn’t bother making friends or connecting with the people around him.
Wang Young-ran (Kwon Eun-bin)
She’s the cool and tough roommate of Kim So-bin. She’s a Physical Education student at the same University and Nam Soo-hyun’s only friend.
Gong Mi-joo (Woo Da-vi)
Gong Mi-joo is the stylish Design-major Sophomore who shares the same room with So-bin ang Young-ran. Growing up too pampered, she has this personality that makes her relationships not last long.
Hong Chan-ki (Choi Jung-woo)
He’s the playboy, very carefree, and loudmouth sole friend of So-bin (and unrequited first love). He studies Computer Science at the same University, and unlike So-bin, he easily gets good grades without even trying.
A Relatable College K-Drama
“At a Distance, Spring is Green” is presented in such a nostalgic, cool, and relatable opening. I have seen numerous college or campus K-dramas but Punch’s voice in a dreamy OST brought me down the memory lane.
“The world tells me I’m physically an adult but that’s not how I see myself. They say this is our youth, but we can’t quite call it that. ‘Youth: the green spring of one’s life’ – as if. Spring is only green at a distance.” – Yeo Jun
For people who have once gone through the bloom of their 20s, myself included, we might relate to how youth was described as quoted by Yeo Jun above – the green spring of our life. But when we look back at how we spent our youth, we’d remember for a fact that it wasn’t just pure joy, laughter, or having fun at all. We all had our fair share of worries during those times, too. Youth is beautiful but it isn’t easy. So maybe, youth is only ‘that’ beautiful from the point of view of someone looking from afar, not of someone who’s literally living it. Like how spring is green, but only at a distance.
The first two episodes were pretty straightforward in presenting it’s theme of youth’s beauty and hardships. It started light, sweet, and sentimental, but once it delved closer into the personal dilemmas of the main characters, it was painfully relatable to watch.
People see Yeo-jun as this nice and happy freshman, but in reality, it was just a front to cover up his true wounded self. Nam Soo-hyun, on the other hand, acts as this cold and unfriendly perfectionist but deep inside is someone who just wanted to survive and take care of his family. One puts on a smile as a facade, the other one holds back a smile to keep his guard. These two characters show us that sometimes, people build a certain image for themselves based on how they want other people to perceive them so they can survive and avoid giving away their insecurities and weaknesses. Hence, there is always more to a person that we can see outside.
I think Nam Soo-hyun and Kim So-bin’s difficulties speak true for most of us. Grades and funds were a college student’s main predicaments. Yeo Jun on the other hand is in a different zone. He’s living comfortably and judging from how he’s chosen as a professor’s research assistant, he must have good grades too. However, the verbal and physical abuse were hard to watch – it was disturbing. I wonder what made his family so messed up that everyone else, aside from him, doesn’t seem to have any emotion other than resentment and rage.
Whether you’re on Nam Soo-hyun, Kim So-bin, or Yeo Jun’s side of the road, I think this series shouts home and is fairly relatable.
Developments I look forward to
The mutual involvement of the three main characters is quite interesting and I am excited to see how and to what kind of relationships their connections will develop into.
First, is Yeo Jun’s constant hovering around Nam Soo-hyun to earn his approval – or was he just simply disturbed by this prickly person who declares seeing through him and refuses to acknowledge the ‘person’ he wants everybody to think he is? Why is he even that persistent? Will Nam Soo-hyun play a bigger role in his life later on?
Next, is Yeo Jun and Kim So-bin’s contractual friendship. Wanting to be liked by everybody, Yeo Jun acts nicely to everyone around him to the point of being a pushover. But recognizing Kim So-bin’s feebleness, it fascinates me how he seemed to be showing her his true self by upholding the upper-hand between them, despite her being 2 years his senior and the chances of her drawing a negative impression about him. I hope that this drama won’t disappoint me, but more than the blossoming romance between them, I am anticipating more of their growing friendship and how they’ll be able to build each other up from their own weaknesses.
Lastly, is the awkward sunbae-hoobae relationship of the intimidated Kim So-bin and apologetic Nam Soo-hyun. It’s pretty common to see an uncomfortable relationship turned into a graceful romance in a K-drama so I’d love to see if these two would somehow take that route. However, considering the matching number of female characters in this series, a second lead couple instead of a love triangle can also be expected.
Overall, I think “At a Distance, Spring is Green” is a light but realistic, and a heartfelt k-drama. Whether you’re one of the younger generation currently celebrating the spring of your life, or someone reminiscing your life’s spring in nostalgia, this drama will surely hit the heart. It’s a reminder that although it may seem like the young ones always have the best days of their lives, youth comes with its fair share of growing pains too.
“At a Distance, Spring is Green” broadcasts at 9:30 PM during Mondays and Tuesday on KBS and on IQIYI for international viewers.
Meanwhile, here is Punch‘s cover of the 2013 song from Kim Roy, “Bom Bom Bom” for the drama’s first soundtrack.