DEFINITION September 2022 - Web


(Not) Done by the book Pachinko challenges the viewer to invest early, and reap the benefits of a tale for generations

WORDS. Julian Mitchell

P achinko ’s showrunner and the adapter of the original book, Soo Hugh, didn’t want her creation to emulate something you might see on Masterpiece – with due respect to that channel. There, you can catch such British stalwarts as Downton Abbey and All Creatures Great and Small ; but Pachinko was more important than that. This was a show that promised to bring closure – or at least some objectivity – to what was left of the millions of Koreans that were forced into Japan during their annexation and colonial rule. Nearly half of them were brought over to become labourers. The majority returned at the end of World War II, and the rest became stateless. Min Jin Lee’s 2017 book of the same name had generational ambitions, tracking the descendants of Sunja, a young Korean girl, born into poverty on occupied land. We follow her life from when she left Korea to almost present-day Japan, with strands of her family’s lives enveloped in the tale.

The book was a huge hit in the US and chimed with that country’s Korean immigration past. But Soo Hugh looked beyond a single nation’s narrative, wanting a more universal story that all immigrants could relate to. THREE-LANGUAGE CHALLENGE For such a sweeping, epic tale, the production needed two sets of directors and executive producers: Kogonada and Justin Chon, who made four instalments each. Kogonada directed episodes 1, 2, 3 and the special 7 (more on this later), while Chon directed 4, 5, 6 and 8. Unfortunately, Japan couldn’t accommodate the production, due to restrictions enforced by Covid-19. But South Korea could – and Canada was chosen for everything else. Although the biggest difference was, again, due to the pandemic. All shooting happened consecutively in Korea, then Canada. That meant the episodic blocks wouldn’t follow one another, as all locations had to be shot in a linear fashion.

“Soo Hugh looked beyond a single nation’s narrative, wanting a more universal story that immigrants could relate to”


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