October 7, 2022

‘Pachinko’ finale highlights the real-life women whose stories aren’t found in history books

6 min read


Immigrants’ resilience, identity and connection is a great story of historical trauma that resonates from generation to generation. But while its themes are universal, “Pachinko” has its roots in a specific history, an important chapter of which is in danger of disappearing.

This fact makes the last minutes of the season especially noteworthy.

The eight-episode season, which chronicles how Japanese colonialism shaped the lives of Sanja and her offspring, ends with documentary footage of real-life Sanjas – Korean women from 1910 and 1945. Moved to Japan in between and remained there after World War II. As a result of these first generation women, the interviews offer a glimpse of an era not found in history books.

“It was a group of people whose stories weren’t considered important enough to be recorded or taped,” the show’s host, Xu Hue, recently told CNN. “There is not much evidence of photography, especially from this first generation. He told me that it was capable of telling a story.”

Almost all of the eight women profiled briefly at the end of “Pachinko” are over 90 years old – one is over 100 years old. He faced countless difficulties and military discrimination in what he now calls home, but as the season draws to a close, he endured. Still, Hugh said, many of them were made to feel that they had Life was not remarkable.

Fearing that women’s stories might be lost over time, Hugh wanted to add his own voice to the series. She wanted to respect their experiences in order to see the world.

Pachinko captures a painful history.

Sanja, the protagonist of “Pachinko”, left her village in Korea in the 1930s and moved to Japan, when unforeseen circumstances forced her to marry a man from Osaka. When she arrives, she realizes that the lives of Koreans in Japan are largely one of struggle and sacrifice.

For many Koreans of this race, Sanja’s experience is familiar.

I "Pachinko,"  Sanja (Minha Kim) and her husband Isaac (Steve Sanghyun Noh) leave Korea for a new life in Japan.
As Japan sought to expand its empire in East Asia, large numbers of Koreans moved to Japan. Some went to their colonial lands in search of economic and educational opportunities – others had little choice in the matter. There were millions of Koreans. Recruited as laborers. During Japan’s war effort and for that it had to work long hours Low payWhile there were some Korean women. Forced into sexual slavery For the Japanese army. Along with hard work and substandard housing, Koreans faced racism And discrimination.

“I came here at the age of 11 and started working at the age of 13,” says Cho Nam Sun, one of the Korean women interviewed for the series. “I grew up in depression. So it’s hard for me to treat other people well. I wonder if it’s because of how I grew up.”

Koreans who immigrated to Japan during the colonial period, as well as their descendants, are called in Japanese. زینیچی, Which translates to “living in Japan”. Jackie Kim-Vachutka, a researcher who consulted on the show and interviewed at the end of the season, has documented the experiences of Zenichi Korean women for decades.

When she began interviewing first-generation Zenichi women 25 years ago, she realized she was aware of a history that was rarely written about: “Everyday Women to Survive.” What do you do.

“They were really painting a canvas of immigrant life and daily struggles,” said Kim-Vachutka, author of the book “Hidden Treasures: Lives of First-Generation Korean Women in Japan.” Became a necessity for reading. “And their daily struggles were not just about their home. The majority of women worked outside the home.”

Sanja (Minha Kim) and her mother (Anji Jeong) are going through the hardships of life in Japanese-occupied Korea.

Just as Sanja sells kamchi in the bazaars to keep her family alive, so did the women meet Kam-Vachutka. Through her research, she went far enough to earn a living during the Japanese colonial period. He resorted to making bottled wines and traveled to the countryside for rice, which he could sell on the black market. Whatever skills they had were put to good use.

“In all these women’s stories, I see Sanja very much in ‘Pachinko’,” she said.

So when Hugh came up with the idea of ​​interviewing some of these women for adaptation, Kim-Vachutka happily agreed. It was important for the audience to see the similarities between the show’s characters and the real people who lived this history.

Women like Sanja struggled and survived.

Despite Japan’s hostile treatment of Korean immigrants, Sanja remains in the country after the end of its rule over Korea.

For generations of Sanja’s family, including Solomon, the other main character in the series, Japan is home – although they are often asked if they are really related.

Although Sanja and her family find life difficult for Koreans in Japan, they live and raise their children.

While the majority of Koreans in Japan returned to their homeland after World War II, the women interviewed by Kim-Vachutka at the end of “Pachinko” were among the estimated 600,000 Koreans who stayed.

“I can’t go to Korea,” Cho Nam-sun told Kim-wachutka in a mixture of Japanese and Korean. “I can’t go home, so this is my hometown now.”

The Koreans living in Japan did this for a variety of reasons. Renee Moon wrote in 2010. topic For Stanford University’s Spice Digest. Some families had finally achieved a measure of stability and did not want to risk a resumption, others felt that their children had become immersed in Japanese culture and yet others only endured the return journey. Could not

“I don’t like to say that, but my children can’t live in Korea,” said Kang Bin Do, 93, in an interview. “So I made sure they got involved in Japanese society.”

In Japan, however, Koreans were considered Japanese citizens under colonial rule, which changed after World War II, effectively displacing them. In the decades after the war, they were subject to many. Foreign Policies Because of their status as foreigners, many Koreans were forced to choose between ignoring discrimination or “passing” as Japanese in order to assert their Korean identity despite hereditary challenges. Are
Yuh-Jung Youn "Pachinko" As a great Sanja.
As Zenitchi Koreans successfully fought for many of their rights in the 70’s and 80’s, blatant discrimination began to decline, John Lee wrote in 2009. topic For the magazine “Education About Asia.” But although Japan has since Apologize For some of its actions in its colonial era, racist attitude towards Koreans Insistence To this day.

The lives of the first generation of women interviewed at the end of “Pachenko” are marked by struggle, but not all of them compliment them. Re Chang Wen pointed out how proud he is of his son and grandchildren. Cho Nam Sun is seen flipping through a photo album, wondering how old those memories seem. Still, he did not look back.

She adds, “There was no difficulty for me in the life I chose for myself. I made my own way, my own way, so I have no regrets on the path I have chosen and Had to go

Their accounts help us calculate the past and the present.

Sharing these stories with the world, Hugh said she wanted to make sure the women had the agency and would not feel they were being used for the show. And finally, he said, many of them described the interviewing experience as a form of healing.

At the end of the footage comes a particularly revealing moment, when Kim-Vachutka comments on Chang Wan’s glowing smile. Laughing doubled over, as if surprised by his compliment. When she finally regains her composure, she speaks again.

“I’m sure it was boring, but thank you for listening,” she says of her story.

The stories of first-generation Zenichi women, such as Sanja’s journey in “Pachenko”, begin an important discussion about race, oppression, and reconciliation – the way it relates, not to the Korean people in Japan, but to the whole. In communities around the world, Kim Wachotka said. Listening to their stories, he said, can help us account for past injustices, and perhaps avoid repeating them.



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