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TV series ‘Pachinko’ reveals the lingering weight of colonization, showrunner says

In an early episode of “Pachinko,” Korean American banker Soloman Baek concludes that Japanese businessman Katsu Abe is testing his loyalty, after an alternate coloured by the historic stress between their two nations. 

“The Koreans versus Japanese situation? Why can’t people just get over that?” Baek’s white boss, Tom Andrews, asks. “It’s the past. It’s done.”

The query, in reference to the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910, is plucked from actual life and painfully acquainted to many within the diaspora, showrunner Soo Hugh informed NBC News. In some methods, its reply sits on the coronary heart of the Apple TV sequence, based mostly on Min Jin Lee’s novel of the identical identify, which follows a Korean immigrant household formed by the occupation.

Through the multigenerational story, which premieres on Apple TV+ on Friday, Hugh stated she hopes to point out how the load of colonialism is unimaginable to overlook. It carries on, making a heavy imprint on the behaviors, sacrifices and selections of households for years to come back. 

Yuna in "Pachinko."
Yuna in “Pachinko.”Juhan Noh / AppleTV+

“When you look at the world around us, these are still things we’re grappling with,” Hugh stated. “It’s still happening. And it just makes you realize just how timeless of a tale this is.”

The sprawling eight-episode sequence, which encompasses 70 years, three languages and a number of cultures, largely revolves round Sunja, the daughter of humble Korean boardinghouse house owners. She contends with life, first in Korea beneath Japanese rule, marked by stringent army management and the tried eradication of Korean tradition and language. Later she immigrates to Japan, experiencing the remedy of a second-class citizen. The circumstances current weighty, typically dire, selections for Sunja — depicted by the actors Yuna, Minha Kim and Youn Yuh-jung — proven throughout three essential levels of her life. 

As the sequence time hops amongst these levels, Sunja is seen, persistently striving to outlive, clinging on to components of her tradition and “just doing the best you can under the given circumstances,” Justin Chon, who directed the sequence with Kogonada, stated. 

“You can see in the worst of situations, the human spirit is so beautifully wanting to survive and live and create life and protection for their family,” Chon stated.

Interwoven all through Sunja’s narrative is her grandson Solomon’s story, which takes place many years later in 1989. Solomon, a younger financial institution govt in New York and performed by Jin Ha, is determined to climb the company ladder. Having largely grown up within the United States with a monetary privilege that Sunja and his household have afforded him however didn’t have themselves, Solomon typically tries to scrub himself of his identification to advance his profession.

The earlier episodes present his return to Japan in hopes of closing a enterprise deal that he believes will earn him the promotion he deserves. The deal, nevertheless, hinges on his skill to persuade a Korean elder to surrender her longtime house in Tokyo. It’s a job that proves far harder when the lady reveals how remaining in that house, as primarily a Korean in exile, is an act of resistance. 

Though Sunja contends with the impression of Japanese occupation in actual time, Solomon absorbs the echoes of it in his makes an attempt to achieve respect amongst his American and Japanese colleagues. 

“We talked a lot about, in the writers room, what colonization really means. You have the historical colonization that’s broken up in dates, facts and figures — when one country comes into another country and takes it over,” Hugh stated. “But just as equally important to talk about is spiritual colonization, and that lasts longer than when the outsiders leave. And in Solomon’s storyline, he’s dealing with spiritual colonization, but he just doesn’t know that yet.”

While a lot of the story is steeped in tragedy, Chon stated that it’s additionally a testomony to a girl’s energy, even beneath oppressive circumstances, that enables for the survival of her household.

Hugh added that “every family has a Sunja.” 

“A positive element of that is, you’re seeing a woman have incredible agency and control of how her future unfolds,” Chon stated. “She makes a strong choice she takes into her own hands to make a life for her and her children.” 

Making the sequence was an intensely private expertise for these concerned. Hugh, whose mother and father are immigrants, stated she was thrust into self-reflection, analyzing the methods through which battle and colonization have touched her personal life. Her mother and father left Korea, and because of her personal upbringing within the U.S., a lot of her personal survival was marked by makes an attempt to really feel a way of belonging. 

The artistic course of has additionally altered the connection Hugh stated she has along with her household. 

“We make heroes out of people who do great things on the battlefield. We have these stories of superheroes who have powers and save the world. And then you realize, my parents coming over to America not knowing a word of English, not knowing anyone here,” she stated. “That is heroic.”


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