‘Pachinko’ TV adaptation: release date, plot details, cast and everything we know so far

Min Jin Lee’s critically acclaimed novel comes to life with a star-studded cast

Pachinko, the beloved epic historical novel by Min Jin Lee, is getting a television adaptation. Thanks to Apple TV+, we can soon expect a show of similarly lofty ambitions. A stacked list of actors and directors, including Korean icon Lee Min-ho, has already been confirmed.

Lee’s novel follows the trials and tribulations of Korean immigrants in turn-of-the-century Japan, which unfolds over four generations. The 2017 book was praised for its depiction of institutional racism, prejudice and gripping intimacy under a distinct Asian lens.

The list of talent involved ensures this upcoming series will be one to watch. Here’s what we know so far.

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Latest news:

  • New clips of Kim Min-ha as young Sunja appear online
  • First pictures of Lee Min-ho on the set of Pachinko surface on social media
  • Jung Woong-in reportedly to join the star-studded cast
  • Minari star and veteran actress Youn Yuh-jung has been added to the cast
  • Jung Eun-chae to reunite with former co-star Lee Min-ho, playing the role of Kyunghee

What is the plot of Pachinko?

Pachinko details the journey of a Korean family who move to Japan in a period of the country’s occupation of a then-unified Korea and their involvement in World War II. The story begins in 1883, but the bulk of the novel’s story takes place between 1910 to 1989.

The main appeal of Pachinko is Lee’s effortless weaving of individual characters within this timeline. Its main protagonist is Sunja, whose journey to Japan in the midst of poverty reveals a deep-rooted undercurrent of intolerance towards Koreans in the country. Her story entwines with the life of Hansu, a mysterious Korean merchant born into a rich Japanese family, along with a host of characters that are both Korean and Japanese.

What ensues is a multi-generational tale that The Guardian pronounced a “rich tribute to a people that history seems intent on erasing”.

Pachinko Apple TV plus series Min Jin Lee actor Lee Min Ho
Min Jin Lee. Credit: DPA Picture Alliance/Alamy Stock Photo

How long is Pachinko?

While the novel stands at a hefty 490 pages, per Deadline the show is currently booked as a limited eight-episode special. It’s not yet confirmed if showrunner Soo Hugh (The Terror) will diligently follow the events of the book or add any new plot elements.

Who will act in Pachinko?

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With the show involving dialogue in English, Japanese and Korean, and with set locations across several continents, according to Deadline, the talent on board spans from established Asian stars to Hollywood upstarts.

The main cast of the show was revealed last October, led by beloved South Korean actor Lee Min-ho. The star of The King: Eternal Monarch will play Hansu.

For the role, Lee auditioned for the showrunners – which, the actor told GQ Korea, as reported by Soompi, he hadn’t had to do in a decade due to his surging popularity since 2009’s Boys Over Flowers. “I felt very pressured about having to do well. I was really nervous and excited, and I was really happy when I got the part,” he said. Lee’s The King co-star Jung Eun-chae joins him on this project, playing the supporting role of Kyunghee.

Lee Min-ho
Lee Min-ho. Credit: Alamy

The novel centres on the main protagonist Sunja, who will be played by Minari star Youn Yuh-jung, her agency Hook Entertainment confirmed. In a February interview with Los Angeles Times, the veteran actress said that she enjoys taking on new projects and challenging herself. “I read the novel and I was really touched: ‘It’s me, and I can play this role really well.'”

Meanwhile, teenage Sunja will be played by Kim Min-ha. Known for his roles in Netflix’s Devs and the Chicago production of Hamilton, the Korean-American actor will play Solomon, an ambitious young man tied up by his family’s past.

Japanese actors Soji Arai and Kaho Minami will portray Mozasu and Etsuko, respectively. The former is a successful businessman and father of Solomon, while the latter is an independent woman in search of her estranged daughter. Japanese-New Zealand actress Anna Sawai, who has an upcoming role in the ninth Fast & Furious film, will play Naomi, a tenacious careerist making her way in the male-dominated world of finance.

Actor Jung Woong-in is also expected to join the cast, JoongAng Daily reported in January.

Directors Kogonada and Justin Chon are set to direct four episodes each, with Kogonada – praised for his artful film essays and 2017 debut Columbus – locked in for the show’s pilot episode. Both directors will also serve as executive producers alongside Min Jin Lee herself.

Has Pachinko started filming?

Yes, Panchiko has already begun filming. At the end of March, several fans spotted actress Kim Min-ha in costume on set. She appeared to be filming at the same location where Lee Min-ho was seen earlier.

On March 17, fans shared photos and videos of Lee Min-ho on set. The actor was spotted shooting a scene at the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site in Canada. Check them out here:

Speaking to LA Times in February, Youn Yuh-jung confirmed that she had arrived in Vancouver, Canada to begin filming for Pachinko.

When will Pachinko be released?

There is no confirmed release date for the series yet. With the show currently being filmed, more news will surely emerge soon.

Is there a trailer for Pachinko?

No, a trailer for the series has not yet been released. It will most likely arrive closer to the premiere date.

How can I watch Pachinko?

Since Pachinko is an Apple original, it will be released exclusively on the tech giant’s on demand streaming television service Apple TV+. The service is available on the Apple TV app, which comes for free on any Apple device for one year. See more details about the service here.

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