Pachinko ~ Min Jin Lee

The book Pachinko travels through decades, from Korea’s fishing village to Osaka, Yokohama, Tokyo, Columbia and then finally back to Yokohama. It is the story of Sonja, from being an innocent Korean village girl to being a  grandmother, of her grit and determination to survive. It is the story of Yoseb, who despite saying he is not brave, has the courage to take care of his family. It is the story of Mozaru, who wants to succeed and make a better life for his son. It is the story of Noa, who follows all the rules, just wanting to fit in.  It is the story of Hansu, who wants to control Sonja and later Noa.

Korea is famous for K-pop and Korean skincare, but its history is something most of us are unaware of. Pachinko is the Japanese form of pinball and quite a few Koreans of Japan are involved in the Pachinko industry, though it might be a very simplistic way to think about this book. Pachinko introduces you to the colonization of Korea by Japan. It shows the racism in Japan against the Koreans, a part of history which Japan will most probably want to forget. It depicts the struggle of ordinary Koreans in Japan, the expatriate life; the sense of alienation; the struggle to make a new, better life; the feeling of belonging, yet not being accepted even though it might be the third or even fourth generation to be born in the country.

 It is the first book I read about Koreans and their history. The book is about a forgotten chapter in world history which, even though lost, is still relevant. The story ensnares you, you want to keep turning the page to see what happens next. There is no melodrama and yet there is pathos. There are no detailed descriptions but yet, the writing is such that you can see the events unfolding before your eyes.

Pachinko is the story of ordinary people who only have one aim, to survive and to make a better future for their children. It is something , which all of us can relate to at an instinctive level, and therein lies the beauty of this book.

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