“Who’s that woman?”
In Apple TV+’s original drama “Pachinko”, the fish broker Koh Han-su (Lee Min-ho) is curious about Sun-ja (Kim Min-ha), who comes and goes to the Busan fish market with confident steps. Han-su’s attention gets drawn to the girl with a strange mature feeling exuding from her youthful face, pure atmosphere, and kind expressions. Like Sun-ja, actress Kim Min-ha stimulated the curiosity of viewers around the world with her mysterious charms.
“Pachinko” is an epic drama that captures the modern and contemporary history of Korea from the 1910s to the 1980s with the turbulent stories of the first Korean families migrating between Korea, Japan, and the United States. 8 episodes were all released on April 29th. Kim Min-ha portrayed the young version of the main character Sun-ja. Sun-ja was born in Yeongdo, Busan as the youngest daughter in a poor family. At the age of 13, Sun-ja left his father, who suffered from tuberculosis, and makes a living by running a lodging with her mother. She is a girl who looks vulnerable on the outside but is confident and independent inside. Sun-ja gets pregnant with the child of a married man, becomes the wife of a pastor, leaves her hometown to settle in Japan, and raises her two sons alone after losing her husband. Kim Min-ha portrays the toughness and undeterred image of Sun-ja, who has to live even when she’s tired of life.
In Korea, “Pachinko” is better known for the appearances of Lee Min-ho and Youn Yuh-jung, but the main character is actually Kim Min-ha. Kim Min-ha debuted in a web drama in 2016 and starred in “School 2017” and “Partners for Justice”. It might surprise many people that the main character of this masterpiece, which was invested with 100 billion won by Apple, is a rookie actress whose name is still unknown in Korea. However, after seeing her performance, viewers have no choice but to agree and recognize her.
Kim Min-ha, who spent 3-4 months taking auditions, said, “The audition method, which I had not done so far was hard, but gained many things. I was really shocked by the new experience. It was the time for me to look back on myself, and I learned how to listen to others’ stories with my heart”. She added, “The drama contains historical events that happened in Korea, but it focused more on the humanity side. In the story, I play a character who has a strong sense of responsibility and pride to be able to represent strong strong women and mothers”
In “Pachinko”, Sun-ja shares love with Han-su with all her body and mind. When asked about her hot scene with Lee Min-ho, Kim Min-ha said, “It was short but intense. I poured a lot of emotions and thoughts into it. The scene was intense since it depicts a love that goes a lot beyond just emotions”. Regarding the two’s chemistry at the audition, Lee Min-ho shared, “When I first saw Kim Min-ha, I already felt the character Sun-ja in her”, adding, “I think we have seen each other three or four times before, but I was surprised and happy to see her act as widely as how I felt when I met her in the past. I had many good memories”.
Foreign media praised Kim Min-ha‘s excellent acting and character interpretation, such as “She skillfully portrayed Sun-ja, a survivor of the era, and showed both the weak and strong sides of the character.” (Indie Wire) and “She has an amazing ability to easily catch and express the character’s weakness and strength at the same time.” (Collider)
What Kim Min-ha amazed the foreign media was not only her good performance but also her excellent English ability like a native speaker. Kim Min-ha, who received only a few months of foreign language training and has no overseas experience, conducted interviews with “Pachinko” World Premiere and foreign media in English without interpreting. Kim Min-ha‘s fluent English is thanks to her mother’s harsh education, who wanted her to become an English professor. She said, “I enjoyed watching ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’, but when I watched foreign films, I had to watch them without subtitles.” In SBS radio’s ‘Park Ha-sun’s Cinetown’, which she recently appeared on, she said, “When I was young, I didn’t want to study English so much. I cried every day because I didn’t want to do it. I even hide in the bathroom. I cried while memorizing words in the bathroom.” Her strict adherence to the rules she didn’t want to follow has become the basis for her rise as the next-generation global actress.
The reason “Pachinko” and the main character Kim Min-ha are more talked about abroad than in Korea is that Apple TV+ viewing is still limited in Korea. Android operating system users cannot download the app, so the number of paid subscribers is small, and the number of contents being serviced is less than other OTTs. Relatively more Apple’s iOS users abroad, so Kim Min-ha‘s face became known overseas rather than in Korea.
Episode 1 of “Pachinko”, released for free on YouTube, has surpassed 10 million views. Apple TV+ has also confirmed the production of “Pachinko” season 2. More viewers can watch “Pachinko” and Kim Min-ha’s story. In season 2, Sun-ja, who lost her husband, raised her two sons alone, and was responsible for the livelihood of her in-laws, is expected to be depicted in earnest. Expectedly, Kim Min-ha will play the role of a strong woman who protects her family by enduring discrimination and oppression in a foreign country during turbulent times with her delicate acting.