I’m finally back for the second installment in my K-Dramas, Beyond The Romance series. To get back into the groove of things I’ve decided to recap the new MBC TV series One Spring Night which is also airing on Netflix starting today, July 12th. Yes, I know it’s been three months since the first feature about Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, but like a typical K-Drama fashion, I as the leading lady in this drama called life, have been experiencing some unforeseen health issues which affected by ability to write consistently. Sadly, there was no dashing male lead present to gaze longingly into my eyes, or give me a piggyback ride. sighs dramatically Kim Shin, where are you? But, there have been plenty of new and old shows to entertain me
As I said in my first post, K-Dramas have become my favourite kind of shows to watch not only for the entertainment but also because they then to have very specific messages that address topics such as feminism, self-confidence, corruption, PTSD and in my current fave One Spring Night, dating, and the different forms of abuse, including spousal.
There are many reasons why I become a fan of or attached – if you will – to a show, but the main one is because there’s always something I myself personally relate to with one of the characters, be it the main or supporting. With One Spring Night, I’m mostly drawn to the female lead Lee Jeong-in (Han Ji-min) a librarian who’s found herself questioning if she should stay with her current boyfriend Kwon Gi-Seok (Kim Jun-han), or follow her heart and pursue a relationship with Yu Ji-ho (Jung Hae-in) a pharmacist and single father, whom she met one spring morning.
Since I’m beginning the recaps in the middle of the series (currently 8 episodes have aired), I’m going to give a mini-rundown of what’s happened so far, my impression of the characters and show . If you’re familiar with K-Dramas you’ve probably heard about Something In The Rain. It was one of the most popular shows of 2018, and the creative team of writer Kim Eun, and director Ahn Pan-Suk are the same for One Spring Night. While I really like Something In The Rain, it was not perfect, and thankfully the main issues I – and many other viewers – had with that series, are not present in this one.
What positive aspects both shows have in common are how Kim develops the characters with honest and at times heartbreaking dialogue. Though the pacing at times may feel slow, it’s important because it gives us time to get to know and understand who they are as individuals, which for shows that only last 16 episodes is quite impressive. Ahn’s beautiful direction and the cinematography makes you feel like you’re right there with or in close proximity to the characters. It’s intimate without feeling intrusive.
Spoilers below the image.
The main plot of the story revolves around Jeong-in struggling with her feelings for Ji-ho, whom she basically fell in love with at first sight, and him with her. With these sudden feelings, Jeong-in finally admits to herself that she’s no longer content with stagnant state of the four year relationship she has with Gi-seok. As they keep running into each other at various events, and find out they have mutual acquaintances, both Ji-ho and Jeong-in admit they share a strong attraction to each other, but due to their current situations, they initially agree to be friends, despite Ji-ho’s confession that it’s not exactly what he wants.
Unlike Something in the Rain where the female lead Jin-ah (Son Ye-jin), lacked confidence and went along with what her mother said, Jeong-in is the total opposite. She is way more assertive, emotionally mature and has no problem speaking up to her parents. My one issue with Jeong-in is her present lack of sticktoitiveness when it comes to Gi-seok. On multiple occasions she’s actually told him she doesn’t want to marry him, and despite using the exact words “Let’s break up”, she still goes on dates with him, and says nothing when he refers to her as his girlfriend.
Even though it’s extremely frustrating to see her acquiesce, I get it. Both the writing and Han’s acting are so thoughtful that they allow us to understand why she’s this way. They are careful to show the internal struggle of Jeong-in, as a woman living in a society where appearances and how the woman’s actions affect the man usually matter more than what she feels and wants. If she is to make a definitive break, Jeong-in has to be careful of every step she takes to do it, because the fallout could be damaging not only to her, but also Ji-ho and his son.
I can’t wait for her to finally and definitively tell Gi-seok where to take his sorry behind to. He refuses to accept her breaking up with him because his ego is more fragile than a petal bowing in the spring breeze. Gi-seok refusing to accept a breakup on Jeong-in’s terms shows how little respect he has for her, and her feelings. Him trying to hold on is about control and proving to his father and friends that he’s the one who makes decisions.
He’s selfish, arrogant, controlling, manipulative, and emotionally and mentally abusive. He constantly gaslights Jeong-in by making her and others feel she’s being unreasonable, doesn’t value her wants and needs and openly admits that he takes advantage of her. During one conversation he even tells her that because they’re in a relationship, men don’t done need permission for sex from their partners, thankfully Jeong-in quickly tells him he’s wrong and permission is still needed. The nerve of this man.
Yu Ji-ho is similar to Joon-hee (also played by Jung). They’re both mature, caring, attentive and assertive. But the main difference is that Ji-ho has a son, which I personally love because the main male character being a young single father is extremely rare in K-Dramas, and adds a new and interesting context to the relationship between Ji-ho and Jeong-in. Excuse me for a bit while I gush over this man.
Ji-ho is so darn sweet, the way he’s unafraid to show his emotions in front of others is a joy to behold. As a single father Ji-ho’s biggest concern is making sure the people he brings into his son’s life will be a positive influence for him, and because of how things ended with his ex, he’s been afraid to enter into a new romantic relationship, so when he literally tears up seeing the woman he’s in love with showing a genuine interest in his son, I get all of the feels. Ji-ho (and Hae-in) is BAE, ok?
Though Ji-ho is open with his more empathetic emotions, he has no problem when it come to speaking his mind, and displaying what I would call alpha male traits. When it come to Gi-Seok, Ji-ho could not care any less what Gi-seok thinks of him, and I love it. The only reason he’s holding back his feelings is because he’s trying to protect Jeong-in, and respects her need for time to sort her feelings out.
There’s a lot to love about episodes seven and eight, but I think the moment when Seo-in’s (Jeong-in’s older sister, played by Im Seong-eon) mom, Hyeong-seon (Gil Hae-yeon) pushes Seo-in’s husband Si-hoon (Lee Moo-Saeng) out of the house, and into the hallway when she instinctively picks up that something is very wrong between the couple, and knows Si-hoon is at fault. To my recollection, this was my first time seeing a parent, especially a mother, physically step into the gap and act as a barrier to protect her own daughter against her abusive husband.
Throughout my time watching K-Dramas I’ve seen parents berate their daughters for not being good enough wives. They’ve physically and verbally abused their daughters, because having a rich, handsome son-in-law, and keeping up appearances was more important, and I HATE IT. Though we don’t actually see Si-hoon beating Seo-in, the hints are given in the way she becomes defensive and physically recoils away from him. Shots of the furniture strewn around the house, and photos showing her many bruises being kept hidden away in a safe, and the fact they no longer live together.
I appreciate the director being considerate enough to realize that we don’t need to see the act of physical abuse, to know that it’s happening. I see this as them asking us to look at and pay attention to the signs and ques being given, because sadly it’s the same in real life. Victims of spousal abuse hide the physical signs of what’s happening, and if they are unable to speak up, these clues are what we have to pay attention to, especially if we’re suspicious that something is wrong.
Though the romance is everything I want, what I most love about the show is that One Spring Night is also about female solidarity, and women who are supportive of each other. None of the sisters display jealousy or resentment towards each other, with is a like a breath of fresh air in a show with multiple female characters. As the season progresses, I’m looking forward to more moments where the women stick up for and encourage each other, and men getting humbled and put on their place.
Ok, I’m done now. I promise future reviews won’t be this long….I’ll do my best, but before I go I’m just going to post a GIF of Jeong-in and Ji-ho being the adorable, lovelorn dorks that they are. 🙂
Carolyn is a Freelance Film Critic, Journalist, and Podcaster – and avid live tweeter. Member of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), her published work can be found on But Why Tho, The Beat, Observer, and many other sites. As a critic, she believes her personal experiences and outlook on life, give readers and listeners a different perspective they can appreciate.