Apple TV’S new series “PACHINKO” is based upon the bestselling 2017 novel by Manhattan-based author and journalist Min Jee Lee.

Credit: Apple

Creative genius, Min Jee Lee sheds light on growing up in the 20th century Korean-led Japan. The new series is created by Soo Hugh and directed by Kogonada and Justin Chon. The Guardian describes the author as, “Min Jin Lee, whose writings wrestle with race, class, diaspora, religion and love.”

It began official streaming on Apple TV on March 25, 2022. The eight-episode series stars Youn Yuh-jung, Lee Min-ho, Kim Min-ha and Jin Ha. The Verge calls it an,

enthralling historical epic.

“History Has Failed Us”

Credit: Harper’s Bazaar

The novel by Min Jee Lee is based on the history of the Japanese colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945. Specifically, it is based on the Zainichi Koreans, who suffered greatly under the military Japanese rule, and the racist treatment they received throughout the century. The period Min Jee Lee bases her narrative on the forced Japanese occupation that put the nation under strict control for decades.

Her first line of the novel is, 

“History has failed us, but no matter.”

According to the Guardian, Lee explains that history has not solely failed the Japanese nation, but all corners of history. This memory of history has been governed by powerful elites. They possess the cultural capital to reassess history to suit their political agendas.

And ordinary people, without an elite title, do not have the opportunity or access to tell their truths or stories. “Pachinko,” is a 2017 finalist for the National Book Award for fiction.The New Yorker describes Lee as,

a prodigious, inveterate researcher, who takes a journalistic approach to writing her novels.

An Insight Into The Series

Sunja in her later years | Credit: Screenrant

The series follows the character ‘Sunja’ and showcases her life under the Japanese military rule since her birth in the Southern city of Busan. The dialogue is screened in yellow in Korean and blue in Japanese. In order to subtly urge the viewer to engage stronger with the valuable content of the speech.

Credit: Sunja as teen

Her character is played by three actresses: Jeon Yu-na (childhood period), Kim Min-ha (adolescence period), and Academy Award-winner Youn Yuh-Jung (in her later years). Lee writes her story in chronological order. Whereas, the director Justin Chon unconventionally radically defies this narrative structure by laying out the series in a non-linear form. In order to capture themes of

“displacement, cultural identity, death, migration, yearning, and ambition”.
Credit: The Verge

A Political Stand Against Europeanisation?

The new series is more than a “historical drama”. Screenplay artist Soo Hugh reveals that,

“For so long, the west thought their story was the only story,” Hugh says. “It shows the power of the diaspora that we’re saying: no, that’s not the only paradigm. We want our stories as well.”
Credit: Dazed

It has a subtle political agenda. It forces the viewer to consider how selected our histories are in an era of Europeanisation.

Pachinko is available to stream now via Apple TV+. Check out the official trailer below:

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