An interview with Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko

  

An interview with Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko

Where did you get the idea for the story?
 
In 1989, I was at university, and I read History. One day, I skipped class and attended a lecture featuring an American missionary who worked with the Korean-Japanese population in Japan. The missionary discussed the very troubled history of Koreans in Japan, which I’d known nothing about. He said that in the community that he served, there was a 13 year-old Korean-Japanese boy who had been bullied relentlessly because of his ethnic status. He climbed up to his apartment building roof and jumped to his death. The boy and his parents were born in Japan. I never forgot this story.
 
Why do you think there are not more books telling the stories of Koreans in Japan? Or perhaps there are and they have not been translated into English?
 
There is awkwardness, ambivalence, controversy, and or shame in discussing the Korean-Japanese history in Japan. Due to the discrimination that the Korean-Japanese continue to face today, many Korean-Japanese will not discuss their ethnic background openly. In Japan, it is considered rude to ask a direct question about one’s ethnicity. The comparison in the West would be like asking a person’s religion, socio-economic background or sexual orientation, especially if there is a history of or present-day discrimination against the group to which he or she belongs. There are films and books about the Korean-Japanese community in Japanese. However, they are virtually unknown in the West. I do not know of a single work of fiction devoted to the Korean-Japanese written originally in English. I know of one Korean-Japanese novelist (Miri Yu) whose works are available in translation.

 

Read the full interview on foyles.co.uk


 

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee is out now in hardback and ebook