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Book vs. Show: Compare and Contrast the Novel and the Series

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I do deeply love a family saga- and when I read Pachinko, a certain scene left me GASPING for air on the Chicago red line (public transit), the woman next to me said “must be good huh”. The book is linear, but I’m thinking the show will bounce between various time periods- kind of like the “This is Us” format. 
 

I did not have time for a re-read before the show due to work commitments but I am interested to see how the format changes let us be emotionally invested in each character arc. 

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So for some reason, when I read the novel I imagined Hansu to be creepier. And older. I didn’t picture a man so BEAUTIFUL. 
 

Is Sunja taken by his looks when they first meet? When I first read the book of course I thought Hansu was a creep, but with this adaptation I’m understanding how a teenage Sunja could be so smitten with him. 

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On 3/28/2022 at 9:49 PM, Scarlett45 said:

So for some reason, when I read the novel I imagined Hansu to be creepier. And older. I didn’t picture a man so BEAUTIFUL. 
 

Is Sunja taken by his looks when they first meet? When I first read the book of course I thought Hansu was a creep, but with this adaptation I’m understanding how a teenage Sunja could be so smitten with him. 

It's been a minute since I've read the book but I had it in my head that Hansu was in his 30s and decently good looking. I don't know if that's right though.

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6 hours ago, Rilla-my-Rilla said:

It's been a minute since I've read the book but I had it in my head that Hansu was in his 30s and decently good looking. I don't know if that's right though.

His 30s yes, decent looking yes, but this may just be a tv thing, but Lee Min Ho is FINE as hell. I would expect Hansu to be somewhat attractive Sunja was attracted to him, but Lee Min Ho has Hansu would make anyone lose their senses. 

I mean look at him, not a pore on is face (even in HD!), those cheek bones. I wouldve been moved to have sex in the woods too! image.thumb.png.b3fb9298b69068bc9e3eeb55e5bcb79d.png

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4 hours ago, Scarlett45 said:

His 30s yes, decent looking yes, but this may just be a tv thing, but Lee Min Ho is FINE as hell. I would expect Hansu to be somewhat attractive Sunja was attracted to him, but Lee Min Ho has Hansu would make anyone lose their senses. 

I mean look at him, not a pore on is face (even in HD!), those cheek bones. I wouldve been moved to have sex in the woods too! 

I personally find Jin Ha more attractive - I prefer the angular look on a man - but I can't deny that Lee Min Ho is a fine looking man. I didn't get the impression from the book that Hansu was stunningly handsome, but handsome enough for Sunja to be attracted to him.

On 3/20/2022 at 7:17 AM, Scarlett45 said:

I do deeply love a family saga- and when I read Pachinko, a certain scene left me GASPING for air on the Chicago red line (public transit), the woman next to me said “must be good huh”. The book is linear, but I’m thinking the show will bounce between various time periods- kind of like the “This is Us” format. 
 

I did not have time for a re-read before the show due to work commitments but I am interested to see how the format changes let us be emotionally invested in each character arc. 

I can't wait to see the scenes of Sunja and Kyunghee when they were young. To me, theirs was the strongest and most important relationship in the book. 

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14 hours ago, Scarlett45 said:

His 30s yes, decent looking yes, but this may just be a tv thing, but Lee Min Ho is FINE as hell. I would expect Hansu to be somewhat attractive Sunja was attracted to him, but Lee Min Ho has Hansu would make anyone lose their senses. 

I mean look at him, not a pore on is face (even in HD!), those cheek bones. I wouldve been moved to have sex in the woods too! image.thumb.png.b3fb9298b69068bc9e3eeb55e5bcb79d.png

Haha, point taken. 

Oh, totally aware of Lee Min Ho before Pachinko. I've watched several of his dramas. Screen presence 😁

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10 hours ago, chocolatine said:

I personally find Jin Ha more attractive - I prefer the angular look on a man - but I can't deny that Lee Min Ho is a fine looking man. I didn't get the impression from the book that Hansu was stunningly handsome, but handsome enough for Sunja to be attracted to him.

I can't wait to see the scenes of Sunja and Kyunghee when they were young. To me, theirs was the strongest and most important relationship in the book. 

Jin Ha is very attractive too. 
 

I too am excited to see a young Sunja and Kyunghee form a relationship. Not only did Isak give her a husband/father for her baby, she got a great sister in law out of it. 

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I don't love that the show is making Hansu an out-and-out villain. The scenes between Hansu and Isak at the tailor and Hansu and Sunja in his office didn't happen in the book. He wasn't even in town when Sunja and Isak got married and left for Osaka. Also in the book, Sunja herself admitted that he had never made any false promises to her. He had assumed that Sunja knew that a man of his age and status would be already married. Not that Hansu didn't take advantage of Sunja, he absolutely did, but he wasn't the mustache-twirling villain that the show is turning him into.

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6 hours ago, chocolatine said:

I don't love that the show is making Hansu an out-and-out villain. The scenes between Hansu and Isak at the tailor and Hansu and Sunja in his office didn't happen in the book. He wasn't even in town when Sunja and Isak got married and left for Osaka. Also in the book, Sunja herself admitted that he had never made any false promises to her. He had assumed that Sunja knew that a man of his age and status would be already married. Not that Hansu didn't take advantage of Sunja, he absolutely did, but he wasn't the mustache-twirling villain that the show is turning him into.

True, but I never got in the novel why Sunja should have any regrets about not choosing to be his mistress, knowing about his connections to the Yakuza.

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2 hours ago, Spartan Girl said:

True, but I never got in the novel why Sunja should have any regrets about not choosing to be his mistress, knowing about his connections to the Yakuza.

I think it’s complex. Being Hansu’s mistress would’ve been shameful, but Sunja was living in poverty (yes her mom had the boarding house and they did have food to eat, but that’s all). As Hansu’s mistress I don’t doubt he would buy her a house (he might not put it in her name though) and pay the bills, get some servants to run the boarding house and she and her Mom could have an easier life. 
 

BUT Sunja knows there’s no security in that. Given his ties to the Yakuza, the second the wind changed, Hansu could have his throat cut and they could be on the street again. They could come looking for Hansu at her house and harm her/the baby to threaten him. She doesn’t have the social protection a wife would. 
 

Sunja did fall for him and got swept up in her emotions and hormones of first lust (that doesn’t make her bad person), but she’s not stupid. Being a rich man’s mistress is one thing, being a rich man who’s in organized crime mistress is another. In the short term though- it’s better than being a poor unmarried mother, and a social outcast. At least that way she and the baby would be provided for. 
 

Also I do think she loved him. Shes HURT. He never told her or gave her any indication he was married. Yes, it’s likely a man his age would be, but the way he was pursuing her, and given her social milieu (men his age that lived at the boarding house weren’t married) I can see why she honestly believed he was single and cared about her too. She feels used a made a fool of, no way could see look at him the same way again. 

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10 hours ago, chocolatine said:

I don't love that the show is making Hansu an out-and-out villain. The scenes between Hansu and Isak at the tailor and Hansu and Sunja in his office didn't happen in the book. He wasn't even in town when Sunja and Isak got married and left for Osaka. Also in the book, Sunja herself admitted that he had never made any false promises to her. He had assumed that Sunja knew that a man of his age and status would be already married. Not that Hansu didn't take advantage of Sunja, he absolutely did, but he wasn't the mustache-twirling villain that the show is turning him into.

Yeah I get that, but they want to give the actor something to do I suppose. At this point he can either be an asshole, or go away- he cannot be a positive influence in Sunja's life any more. I do think they probably did this, because Hansu knows he is projecting, and when he steps up and takes care of Sunja, her Mom and kids during the war (while Isak is in prison before he comes home) the audience wants to be surprised he does that, he is trying to make amends for his behavior towards her.

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1 hour ago, Scarlett45 said:

Yeah I get that, but they want to give the actor something to do I suppose. At this point he can either be an asshole, or go away- he cannot be a positive influence in Sunja's life any more. I do think they probably did this, because Hansu knows he is projecting, and when he steps up and takes care of Sunja, her Mom and kids during the war (while Isak is in prison before he comes home) the audience wants to be surprised he does that, he is trying to make amends for his behavior towards her.

I wonder how that's going to be handled in the show. I really do not want them to remake Hansu as a viable love interest and turn the whole thing into a love triangle. 

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1 minute ago, Spartan Girl said:

I wonder how that's going to be handled in the show. I really do not want them to remake Hansu as a viable love interest and turn the whole thing into a love triangle. 

I don't think it will.

I think we probably won't see him for an episode or so, until Sunja sells the watch- and then we can see him track her down, get her the job at the restaurant etc. We can see all the things Sunja learns of later playing out in real time. I do not think Hansu will be a love interest- Sunja is committed to Isak and he is a good man, but we are going to see Hansu again.

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Question, its been a while since I read the book, who was the young man Soloman ran into when he was looking for Hana in Tokyo during the last episode? Thank you.

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23 minutes ago, Scarlett45 said:

Question, its been a while since I read the book, who was the young man Soloman ran into when he was looking for Hana in Tokyo during the last episode? Thank you.

I just finished re-reading the book, and that part didn't happen. Solomon referred to the man as Haruki. In the book, Haruki was Mozasu's (i.e. Solomon's father's) best friend. But he was a high-ranking police detective living in Yokohama, not someone living in a Tokyo slum and wearing torn clothes like the character in the last episode. Haruki in the book was also a closeted homosexual, so maybe the show decided to have him found out and disgraced? I don't know to what end though.

A major plot point that wasn't in the book - and the reason I re-read it, because it seemed so off to me on the show - was Sunja and Mozasu traveling to Busan to spread Kyunghee's ashes, and Sunja reconnecting with Bokhee. In the book, Sunja never went back to Korea, and Kyunghee was still alive at the end. And Kyunghee (as well as Isak and Yoseb) was originally from Pyongyang in North Korea, so spreading her ashes in Busan wouldn't have made much sense. Also in the book, Bokhee and her sister were never heard from again after they left to work in Manchuria (the implication was that they were trafficked as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers). The book did have a scene of elderly Sunja at a cemetery, but that was in Osaka where Isak was buried.

Other differences were that Solomon in the book barely speaks Korean; he's only fluent in Japanese and English. And he didn't speak directly to the Korean landowner, he had Mozasu's former boss, who is also Korean, buy the land from the woman and sell it to his employer's client. And Salomon came to Tokyo with a Korean-American girlfriend, who left him after he refused to go back to the US with her. The characters of Tom and Naomi don't exit in the book.

With the show being already more than halfway through the season, they only touched on a fraction of the events that happened in the book. I wonder if Noa is going to be completely retconned and Mozasu will therefore be Hansu's biological son instead of Isak's, and Sonja's only child.

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1 hour ago, chocolatine said:

Haruki in the book was also a closeted homosexual, so maybe the show decided to have him found out and disgraced? I don't know to what end though.

Okay- that’s why I was confused, I remembered Mozasu having a friend, but he didn’t run away from his family and disappear. I was clued in that this guy was gay and had abandoned his family (he had a wife) with no contact but I didn’t put two and two together. Thanks. 

 

1 hour ago, chocolatine said:

With the show being already more than halfway through the season, they only touched on a fraction of the events that happened in the book. I wonder if Noa is going to be completely retconned and Mozasu will therefore be Hansu's biological son instead of Isak's, and Sonja's only child.

I don’t think so. The series is planned for FOUR seasons, so we have time to tell more stories. Sunja hasn’t even had Noa yet! But their baby/childhood years shouldn’t take up much time. 

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18 minutes ago, Scarlett45 said:

The series is planned for FOUR seasons, so we have time to tell more stories. Sunja hasn’t even had Noa yet! But their baby/childhood years shouldn’t take up much time. 

I didn't realize it was supposed to be multiple seasons. IMDb is only showing one season so I thought it was a limited series, to be wrapped up in eight episodes. With four seasons it makes sense for them to add more material, including bigger storylines for secondary characters like Haruki. In that case, I also hope we get to see what happened to Changho after he returned to North Korea. In the book he was an important character during the WWII years, but then left and was never heard from again.

ETA: I also want to see how Solomon fares after he decides to give up the finance world and take over the pachinko business from Mozasu.

Edited by chocolatine
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9 minutes ago, chocolatine said:

I didn't realize it was supposed to be multiple seasons. IMDb is only showing one season so I thought it was a limited series, to be wrapped up in eight episodes. With four seasons it makes sense for them to add more material, including bigger storylines for secondary characters like Haruki. In that case, I also hope we get to see what happened to Changho after he returned to North Korea. In the book he was an important character during the WWII years, but then left and was never heard from again.

The show creator says four seasons is the plan, 

Quote

While the second season has not yet been confirmed, Pachinko creator and EP Soo Hugh spoke to ScreenRantabout expectations for a follow-up - and she revealed how long the series will run!

"The show is four seasons long, so it was never supposed to be a limited series. So the idea is we're going to watch these characters grow up as well, so that storyline is coming,"

The full article is here.

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It's a little weird that they're planning four seasons without having even confirmed a second season with Apple. I know the book has won critical acclaim, but I'm not sure that it had enough  mass appeal to ensure that there would be enough viewers to stick around that long. I think it may have been better to do a longer limited series, like 12-13 episodes, and cover everything from start to finish.

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On 4/4/2022 at 11:13 AM, Spartan Girl said:

I wonder how that's going to be handled in the show. I really do not want them to remake Hansu as a viable love interest and turn the whole thing into a love triangle. 

Quoting you again to say- from the ending scene from episode 6, I think they are writing Hansu in to give the actor something to do, and so that the audience knows he’s keeping up with Sunja and her life. 

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@chocolatine yes, I remembered they did call a midwife in the book. Even just based on what we knew from the show, any midwife would’ve been Korean, and from their neighborhood. A Japanese midwife wouldn’t have come.

 

But it makes for more dramatic tension to have a neighbor help. 

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21 minutes ago, Scarlett45 said:

from the ending scene from episode 6, I think they are writing Hansu in to give the actor something to do, and so that the audience knows he’s keeping up with Sunja and her life. 

Hansu keeps up with Sunja in the book as well, so the show didn't write that in. They're just showing him more frequently, whereas in the book he stayed in the background while Isak was alive. But he does re-appear in Sunja's life after Isak's death, and we find out that he's been pulling strings the entire time, such as getting the pawnbroker to buy the watch, getting Changho to give Sunja and Kyunghee jobs, etc.

Edited by chocolatine
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4 minutes ago, chocolatine said:

Hansu keeps up with Sunja in the book as well, so the show didn't write that in. They're just showing him more frequently, whereas in the book he stayed in the background while Isak was alive. But he does re-appear in Sonja's life after Isak's death, and we find out that he's been pulling strings the entire time, such as getting the pawnbroker to buy the watch, getting Changho to give Sunja and Kyunghee jobs, etc.

Yes yes- we know that because we read the book, but the tv audience doesn’t know that yet if they aren’t familiar with the source material. Hence why the show is writing it in now. 
 

It’s much easier to have characters be “off page” than “off screen”- Hansu is showing up now so they don’t have to write a script filling in everything later. That’s what I was trying to get it, not that they are making Hansu a continued love interest for Sunja like @Spartan Girl speculated. 

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According to episode 7 description- Hansu is the protagonist. Ummmmhmmm, there’s no way to make him unshady in my mind. 

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On 4/19/2022 at 6:51 AM, Scarlett45 said:

According to episode 7 description- Hansu is the protagonist. Ummmmhmmm, there’s no way to make him unshady in my mind. 

Not sure how I feel about that. I think his character works best in small doses.

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8 minutes ago, chocolatine said:

Not sure how I feel about that. I think his character works best in small doses.

We are in agreement. 

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Episode 7 was 100% off book, but I have to eat my words- I REALLY liked it. Hansu is still a shady asshole (as always), but Lee Ming-ho brought his A-Game and Hansu has layers. Oh we still hate him for the way he’s treated Sunja, and being a dick to his wife, but humans have layers and get got to see some of his. We can not like him, but be broken hearted for him all episode long. 

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Overall, I didn't mind the changes they had to make--I know that is inevitable in any adaptation, and a lot of what worked really well in the book was very interior to the characters, and that rarely translates easily to film/television.

The changes that I didn't like overall were about Sunja's initial relationship with Hansu and then some of Solomon's storyline. Which is not to say that I don't think the changes were well done in the show. It's obviously a first-rate production with gorgeous production values and talented actors, writers, and producers. But I just didn't particularly care for the thematic implications of the changes. 

For the first one, in the book, I don't think there is any indication that Hansu has a shady criminal background, and he is 100% the one who pushes the relationship, without any encouragement from her. In the show, he is really obviously a gangster figure from the start and she is the one who invites him to meet with her privately, whereas in the book, it is all his idea. I think they were possibly trying to make the relationship seem less squicky because it is pretty predatory in the book, but I think the downside is it makes him seem more like a viable love interest rather than an adult man who took advantage of a teenaged girl for a fling. It also makes it less shocking that he is in fact a cad. I feel like readers know this, but Sunjee doesn't until he refuses to marry her. But with the rewrites, it makes her seem foolish for expecting more from him, whereas in the original, I could totally see why she was so blindsided, even if she was being naive. 

Just in general the stuff with Hansu was my least favorite part of the book because I found his constant interventions in the family's life, even when it helped them, really invasive and creepy. 

As for Solomon, I can see why they altered his storyline to be able to stretch it out over the course of multiple seasons, but I'd really liked the subplot about him having the Korean American girlfriend because I thought the compare and contrast in their experiences in both Japan and America and in their identity as Koreans was really interesting. I can see that being something they eventually work into a future season, so I hope it isn't completely removed. 

I also wasn't a big fan of the alteration of Sunja going to Korea with Kyunghee's ashes and meeting Bokhee again. In addition to it not making sense from a story angle, as someone else has mentioned since Kyunghee was not from there, it just seemed a little too pat to me. If they'd wanted to have Sunja go back home with someone's ashes, it would have made more sense for it to be her mom, who does die in Japan with them. 

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As a side note, I am not sure where else to place this, but since it has been renewed for season 2, and the plan is for 4 seasons total, how far do you think season 2 will move forward historically? My guess is that it will cover the WWII material, but there is so much to unpack there, I could see how that may last for 2 full seasons. 

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1 hour ago, Zella said:

As a side note, I am not sure where else to place this, but since it has been renewed for season 2, and the plan is for 4 seasons total, how far do you think season 2 will move forward historically? My guess is that it will cover the WWII material, but there is so much to unpack there, I could see how that may last for 2 full seasons. 

I’m thinking Season 2 will go through the WWII material and the boys (Noa and Mozasu) adolescence. I could see season 3 ending with Noa’s suicide. 

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2 hours ago, Zella said:

Just in general the stuff with Hansu was my least favorite part of the book because I found his constant interventions in the family's life, even when it helped them, really invasive and creepy. 

Hansu is invasive and creepy🤣. Sorry I couldn’t help myself. 

2 hours ago, Zella said:

If they'd wanted to have Sunja go back home with someone's ashes, it would have made more sense for it to be her mom, who does die in Japan with them.

I see where you’re coming from, but I think they made it Kyunghee because we were going to meet her “young self”, and get emotionally attached to her. At the time of the 80s storyline, Sunja’s Mom would’ve been long dead. I wonder if we will see her reunite with her Mom (like she did in the book) during the WWII years when Hansu finds a place for them to go. I know it broke her Mother’s heart to watch the boat drift away, even though she knew it was the best thing for Sunja. It would be nice to see the actress again and know the character got to spend her last years with her only child. 

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39 minutes ago, Scarlett45 said:

Hansu is invasive and creepy🤣. Sorry I couldn’t help myself. 

I see where you’re coming from, but I think they made it Kyunghee because we were going to meet her “young self”, and get emotionally attached to her. At the time of the 80s storyline, Sunja’s Mom would’ve been long dead. I wonder if we will see her reunite with her Mom (like she did in the book) during the WWII years when Hansu finds a place for them to go. I know it broke her Mother’s heart to watch the boat drift away, even though she knew it was the best thing for Sunja. It would be nice to see the actress again and know the character got to spend her last years with her only child. 

In the book, her mom dies in the late 70s, and both women were teen parents, so I don't think it would have stretched credulity to have her mother live another 10 years. I think they will preserve the plot point about him bringing her mom over since Bokhee vaguely mentioned when she returned, Sunja's mother was gone. 

But even if they wanted to preserve the timeline of her mom dying earlier, I still think finally taking her long dead mother's ashes to Busan makes way more sense than her sister-in-law. Busan meant nothing to her. 

43 minutes ago, Scarlett45 said:

I’m thinking Season 2 will go through the WWII material and the boys (Noa and Mozasu) adolescence. I could see season 3 ending with Noa’s suicide. 

That seems like a pretty good guess. I admired how restrained the show has have been with keeping Noa's fate under wraps. It is clear he didn't live and something tragic happened, but if I hadn't read the book, my mind wouldn't be thinking suicide. That is a pretty shocking moment in the book, and I think they will preserve that in the show. 

Edited by Zella
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