K-Drama Premiere: “More Than Friends” Sets A Compelling Overture For A Ponderous Journey Towards Mutual Love

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Triumphantly setting the narrative for a tedious journey of fulfilling a mutual love, More Than Friends‘ premiere rouses curiosity about how a friendship would blossom into a romance.

More Than Friends‘ realistic take on “love fixation” preludes the biting reality of a romantic love devoid of magic and excitement. Braving the boundaries of friendship, letting go of unnecessary emotional baggage, and finding the path to healing – these are the riveting themes that gravitate fans towards the unfolding of the story.

Premiere Week Recap

The story takes us back a decade ago when Kyun Woo Yeon (Shin Ye-eun) thrives academically as a high school student. Bemedaled for her writing accomplishments, she sets her sight towards a literary career in the future.
However, because of an unreasonable envy towards her, a bully female classmate makes her an object of ridicule. Hence, her effortless eloquence takes a backseat every time she transforms into a push-over.
Having witnessed her plight, her reserved and detached classmate, Lee Soo (Ong Seung Woo), surprisingly comes to her rescue. Much to the envy of her tormentor and to her confusion, the mistreatment she gets only draws Soo’s attention further towards her.
More than friends
Meanwhile, Woo Yeon also develops friendship with the school’s top student, Han Jin-ju (Baek Soo-min) and the diligent working student Kim Young-hee (Ahn Eun-jin). Their bond is set to endure years of trials and tribulations together.

Getting Lost In Translation

As Woo Yeon and Soo get closer, she develops a special affection for him which is further intensified by the vague signals he exhibits. His strange warmth towards her and the amount of time he is willing to spend with her undoubtedly speak volume about his appreciation for their friendship. This inevitably gives her an assumption that Soo also likes her.
It was later revealed that Soo harbors deep resentment towards his parents. Their divorce when he was a child has caused unhealed wounds contributing to his defensive emotional state. His childhood trauma has turned him into an unfriendly and stoic person towards the others.
He decides to leave for the US to pursue his college studies which awfully upsets Woo Yeon. Determined to take their friendship to the next level, she confesses to him right before he leaves. However, she ends up being rejected. Soo makes it clear that he wants to keep the friendship he has with her with an emphasis on the spaces and boundaries they have to maintain.

A Surprise Reunion

Seven years later, Woo Yeon works as a part-time employee in a corporate office. The nature of her job, not to mention the discrimination she gets as the lowest ranked in the employment hierarchy, creates a miserable work environment for her. But her financial woes leave her no choice but to endure such burden.
In the romantic aspect, Woo Yeon finds herself in a string of failed relationships over the years. While she engages herself romantically with other men, her feelings for Soo did not falter.
More than friends
One evening, out of drunkenness following a liquor spree with her friends, she dials Soo’s number on her phone. He surprisingly answers the phone call and patiently listens to the drunk lady’s rant with amusement. The next thing she knows, he is already in front of her, looking intently through her eyes.

Green Is A Sad Color

Staying in Korea for the summer season, Soo catches up with Woo Yeon as old friends would. Their renewed closeness, however, further ignites Woo Yeon’s feelings for him.
Wanting to give it another shot, she takes another leap of faith as she bares her emotions hoping to be acknowledged and reciprocated this time. But her high hopes come to naught just the same as Soo explains that he cherishes her only as a friend.
In the middle of a summer night when nature blooms in its greenest, she feels like a withering flower with extinguishing signs of life. Such firm rejection after being consumed by the decade-long affection crushes her pride quite harder this time. Hence, she makes a pact with herself to move forward and never to look back again.

It’s Okay To Get Lost

Fast forward to the present time, Woo Yeon now juggles herself between different part-time jobs to get by. As the coffee shop she works at temporarily closes, she goes to Jeju Island and works there as a part-time cleaner for a couple of weeks.
While Woo Yeon is taking a stroll on a beautiful hilltop, Soo, who happens to be in Jeju too, unexpectedly spotted her while he was taking photos of the beautiful place. Little did they know that they are both staying at the same guesthouse. The awkward reunion smoothly transitioned into a comfortable meeting between the two old friends.
More than friends
As they sit together watching the beautiful sky, Soo surprisingly hands Woo Yeon a compass he sourced from an antiquarian shop. With a mixture of amusement and confusion on the sweet gesture, Woo Yeon asks Soo what is it for. With nonchalance, he tells her that it’s okay to get lost and be confused with herself as she will eventually find her own way.

A Chance Encounter

Armed with passion to put her artistry into practical use, Woo Yeon goes to a small but cozy bookstore in Jeju. She hands the bookkeeper samples of her calligraphy works on postcards. Although the bookkeeper obviously shows no interest in Woo Yeon’s works, the latter still leaves samples on the desk.
As she goes out of the bookstore, a man in dashing suit is about come in. He catches Woo Yeon, peeping at the shop’s window who is hoping that the bookkeeper will at least pick up and spare a look at the postcards she left on the desk.
More than friends
The chance meeting turns into a hilarious encounter. Woo Yeon accidentally bumps her head into the man’s arm and entangles her hair with his suit buttons. The man, who turns out to be Joon Soo, was kind enough to take off his suit so Woo Yeon can properly disentangle her hair from it.
Appreciating the man’s kindness and gentlemanly manners, she secretly inserts a postcard on Joon Soo’s suit as a token of appreciation. Later that evening, he finds the splendid postcard and is absolutely impressed with her calligraphy talent and writing skills.
Their immediate connection could be the start of something great between them.

What To Look Forward

Character Development

Kyun Woo Yeon

Her fate is a calligraphy art in a nutshell – beautifully written but is grappling to be relevant. Her artistry is a hidden gem but her financial struggles mean her love for the arts has to wait. The once promising writer becomes a jill-of-all-trades who has to wear different hats to earn a living. Sometimes a barista in a coffee shop, at times a cleaning assistant and a bookstore staff in between. Nevertheless, Woo Yeon is a picture of uncomplaining and resilient character.
But if there is anything she would like to break free from, it would be the lonely feat of enduring a one-sided pining for her first love. But every time she tries with great might, fate gets in the way entangling her even more with him.

Lee Soo

Just as a photo could weave a thousand words into a story, Soo’s life is itself a photograph. The opening episodes portrayed him as a layered character who has so much stories to tell beyond his outward demeanor. Still bearing his childhood trauma, Soo never yields to anyone with his guarded and calculated self. The unhealed wounds are like ghosts that shove people away from him.
Thriving in controlling his thoughts well, it however leads to poor navigation of emotions. He may have rejected Woo Yeon’s long-standing affection for him, but he always had a soft spot for her. And though her company provides him comfort and solace, he cannot bring himself to acknowledge her worth in his life.

On Joon Soo

Although his presence was sparingly shown in the premiere episodes, his charismatic personality had easily made a mark in the drama. Running a a bookstore and publishing company, he likewise has an eye for the arts.
Woo Yeon’s artistic passion has paved the way for their chance encounter. It was pleasant and anecdotal rather than casual and awkward initial meeting.

Han Jin-ju

A feisty prosecutor with impossibly high standards for men, she seems to set off for a spinster life. As one of Woo Yeon’s bestfriends, she has walked with her in her miserable journey of harboring unrequited love over the years. Unfortunately, she comes up short in pulling her from a downward spiral course of losing her pride for the man who lacked interest in her.

Kim Young-hee

She is a hard-working lady who is hurdled by financial limitations. In contrast with her close friend, Woo Yeon, she is in a well-established relationship with her boyfriend since high school. Thus, falling in the extreme opposite ends of the relationship spectrum makes it difficult for her to guide Woo Yeon through the course of letting go of Soo.

Jin Sang-hyuk

He is one of Woo Yeon’s close friends since high school. His spontaneous funny antics constantly light up the mood of everyone around him

Shin Hyun-jae

He is a loyal boyfriend to Young-hee. Their relationship has been running for already 10 years.

A Love Triangle Unfolding

Just when Woo Yeon decided to bury her one-sided love for good, she will be caught in a new crossroads towards happiness. Will she risk all that is left of her  to be a third time lucky for that elusive love? Or will she take the alternate route to happiness with a brand new romance?
Soo, who has an established friendship with Woo Yeon, seemingly has an upper hand over his imminent rival. But he would need to race against time to pull Woo Yeon’s attention back to him. Her decade-long lingering presence in his life turned out to be an indispensable part of his journey towards genuine love.
More than friends
And poised to offer Woo Yeon with a fresh perspective on love, Joon Soo would position himself to win her over by nurturing her artistic inclination. It would be a delight to watch how he would fare against the object of Woo Yeon’s affection
More than friends

Premiere Afterthoughts

More Than Friends’ premier episodes have shown a promising relatable narrative. The opening episodes brought so much to the table than what I have expected. While it threads mainly on the romantic side of the story, specifically about an unrequited love for a friend, it is also a story about personal healing and journey towards happiness.
At a glance, the main characters are portrayed as people who have been flawed by the scars from past unfortunate events. The drama vividly shows how the wounds inflicted to them, in one way or another, continuously hinder them to move forward and enjoy life in wild abandon.

A Journey To Healing

Woo Yeon, for instance, is being held back for too long by her first love who only sees her worth as a friend. She is a selfless person with so much warmth in her character. But she can’t seem to find true happiness after being enslaved from the curse of her unreciprocated love. Hence, she falls into a series of failed relationships following a line of thinking that she would somehow learn to love the person later.
Soo, on the other hand, displays deep sensibility and gentleness. But his soft side is layered by his distrust to people. To some extent, the way he guards his emotions goes to a level of self-centeredness. In this manner, I think the drama has succeeded in depicting how emotional traumas greatly affect one’s ability to perceive and process intangible aspects such as love and happiness.
It would be enthralling to see how Soo would find peace in his heart and enlightenment in his mind. And by then, he would be well-versed in navigating his emotions and would find no inhibitions to express it.
Moreover, Joon Soo’s presence will be a huge game-changer in the story. It would be exciting to see how his stepping into the picture would affect the relationship dynamics between Woo Yeon and Soo.
Overall, More Than Friends has enough charm to draw viewers’ interest in its 16-episode run. The series vows to deliver a myriad of emotions as the characters embrace the challenge of finding and fulfilling a love that has always been there.
More Than Friends is aired every Fridays and Saturdays at 11pm (KST) via JTBC.


Image and video source: JTBC
Streaming site: iQIYI