Min Jin Lee, the author behind the bestselling historical novel “Pachinko,” has credited some of her success to the global popularity of Korean culture, otherwise known as hallyu.
Lee’s “Pachinko” was over 30 years in the making as the author paid meticulous attention to the story’s accuracy and authenticity — even scrapping an earlier draft titled “Motherland” that was nearly completed in 2007 — until it was finally published in 2017. The novel has since been adapted into a critically acclaimed show on Apple TV Plus.
During a press conference on Monday for the release of a new Korean edition of “Pachinko,” Lee gave a nod to hallyu as having given her work the level of attention it may not have otherwise received.
“I’m also benefiting from (the Korean wave) as a Korean American,” she said. “I’m grateful for the excellent art and writings coming from Korea. Those are people who have made sacrifices to be writers, painters, filmmakers, actors and singers.”
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Even just five years ago when Lee was first promoting “Pachinko,” she noted that there was an absence of Asian readers in the audiences she would come across. She wondered whether it was her style of writing, which drew inspiration from 19th century European and American literature, that may have limited her readership.
But now, with the rapid rise of attention on Korean culture, she’s noticed an increasing amount of Asian American readers and authors.
“A synergy is when you have things that are happening at once and you have a sort of magic that happens because you have different forces — and the synergy is you have the Hallyu,” Lee said, per The Korea Herald.
“Pachinko” tells the story of a Korean immigrant family in Japan during Japan’s colonial era, which spanned the first half of the twentieth century. The novel highlights the hardships Koreans experienced at the time.
Lee delves further into her Korean roots for her upcoming novel titled “American Hagwon,” borrowing a Korean word that refers to after-school education centers.
“In Korea, very often, education is linked inextricably with status, rank and hierarchy. I found that to be very interesting. So I’m working on that right now,” she said.