Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 263
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee, is a novel about a Korean woman named Sunja who starts out in Yeongdo, Korea, in 1911, and then marries a Christian preacher who takes her to live in Japan to avoid disgrace from becoming pregnant out of wedlock. As a result, many quotes in the book relate to being out of place in a foreign land.
For example, there’s this quote:
Living every day in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.
This quote is important because it demonstrates the growing xenophobia toward outsiders in Japan at the time, especially toward Koreans like Sunja. This xenophobia would hit a fever pitch in the years leading up to what the US calls World War II.
Another important quote that has a way of encapsulating Pachinko is where the lead character writes,
We cannot help but be interested in the stories of people that history pushes aside so thoughtlessly.
In fact, this is exactly what Pachinko is trying to do, reintroduce the world at large to the stories of people like Sunja, who existed in real life. It’s not as common to hear about how Koreans faired before and during the war, after all.
Sunja also has this quote:
In Seoul, people like me get called Japanese...and in Japan, I’m just another Korean no matter how much money I make or how nice I am.
In other words, outsiders have a hard time of things no matter where they are, and some people are outsiders no matter where they go.