Pachinko Book Summary, Review and Characters, Min Jin Lee


What is the summary of the book Pachinko written by Min Jin Lee? Information about the summary, characters and analysis of Pachinko.



“Pachinko” is a novel written by Min Jin Lee. It is a sweeping multi-generational saga that explores themes of identity, family, love, sacrifice, and the pursuit of dreams. Set primarily in Korea and Japan, the story spans several decades, starting in the early 20th century and continuing into the late 1980s.

The backdrop of the novel is the pachinko industry, a popular form of gambling in Japan. Pachinko parlors serve as a metaphor for the characters’ lives, as they are both drawn to and trapped within this world of chance and uncertainty. The pursuit of success and financial stability is a recurring theme, as the characters strive to improve their circumstances and provide a better future for their families.

“Pachinko” also touches on historical events and societal issues, such as Japan’s colonization of Korea, World War II, and the aftermath of the Korean War. These events shape the characters’ lives and provide a broader context for their struggles and aspirations.


At its core, “Pachinko” is a deeply human story that explores themes of love, resilience, and the enduring power of family bonds. It illuminates the experiences of marginalized communities and sheds light on the complexities of immigrant life, while painting a vivid portrait of a tumultuous era in Korean and Japanese history.

Book Summary

“Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee is an epic family saga that spans four generations, delving into the lives of a Korean family living in Japan. The novel begins in the early 1900s in a small fishing village in Korea, where we meet Sunja, the daughter of a poor yet proud family. When she becomes pregnant by a wealthy and married man, she is faced with a difficult decision.

Sunja’s life takes a turn when a kind-hearted Christian minister named Isak offers to marry her and take her to Japan. They settle in Osaka and start a new life together, but their Korean heritage makes it challenging for them to integrate into Japanese society. Isak becomes a father figure to Sunja’s son, Noa, and later they have a son of their own, Mozasu.

As World War II erupts, Japan’s occupation of Korea brings further challenges to Sunja’s family. Noa, who has always been ambitious and yearned for acceptance, discovers a devastating secret about his parentage that shatters his identity. Meanwhile, Mozasu becomes involved in the pachinko business, a popular form of gambling in Japan, and dedicates himself to its success.

The story continues with the next generation as Sunja’s sons and their children navigate their identities as ethnic Koreans in Japan. Yoseb, Noa’s son, faces discrimination as he tries to establish a life for himself, while his sister, Kyunghee, secretly assists her family through her connections with powerful men. Solomon, Mozasu’s son, encounters prejudice and strives to prove himself despite his Korean heritage.

The narrative also explores the complexities of love and relationships. Sunja’s daughter-in-law, Kyunghee, falls in love with Hansu, a powerful and wealthy Korean businessman who has ties to the family. Their complicated relationship and the consequences it carries reverberate throughout the generations.

The backdrop of historical events, including Japan’s colonization of Korea, World War II, and the Korean War, shapes the characters’ lives and adds depth to the narrative. The novel paints a vivid picture of the struggles faced by Koreans in Japan, the sacrifices made to survive, and the longing for acceptance and identity.


Through it all, “Pachinko” weaves a powerful and emotional tapestry of family, resilience, and the enduring bonds that hold them together. It explores themes of identity, cultural heritage, discrimination, and the pursuit of dreams against the backdrop of a changing world. Ultimately, the novel is a testament to the strength and endurance of individuals who strive to build meaningful lives amidst challenging circumstances.


“Pachinko” features a rich ensemble of characters whose lives intertwine across generations. Here are some of the key characters in the novel:

  • Sunja: The protagonist of the story, Sunja is a resilient and determined young woman from a poor family in Korea. She becomes pregnant out of wedlock and marries Isak, a Christian minister, to secure a better future for herself and her child.
  • Isak: A kind-hearted and principled Christian minister from Japan, Isak marries Sunja and moves with her to Osaka. He serves as a father figure to Sunja’s sons and instills in them a strong sense of integrity and compassion.
  • Noa: Sunja and Isak’s first son, Noa is a bright and ambitious young man. He struggles with his identity as a Korean living in Japan and faces a devastating revelation about his parentage, which shapes the course of his life.
  • Mozasu: Sunja and Isak’s second son, Mozasu is a talented and hardworking young man who becomes involved in the pachinko business. He strives for success and financial stability for his family and is determined to provide a better life for his descendants.
  • Kyunghee: Noa’s sister and Mozasu’s wife, Kyunghee is a strong-willed and resourceful woman. She harbors a secret love affair that poses challenges and consequences for her family.
  • Hansu: A wealthy Korean businessman, Hansu has a complicated relationship with Sunja and her family. Despite his power and influence, his actions have far-reaching implications for those he encounters.
  • Yoseb: Noa’s son and Sunja’s grandson, Yoseb faces discrimination and prejudice as he strives to build a life for himself in Japan. He grapples with his identity as a Korean and his desire to belong.
  • Solomon: Mozasu’s son and Sunja’s grandson, Solomon faces his own challenges as a Korean-Japanese. He dreams of pursuing a career in academia but is confronted with societal biases and barriers.

These characters, along with a host of supporting characters, bring the novel to life, depicting the complexities of their relationships, the hardships they face, and their enduring resilience in the face of adversity. Their individual journeys and collective experiences paint a vivid and heartfelt portrait of the Korean diaspora in Japan.

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