The 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake in Japan was depicted in “Pachinko”. The truth of this disaster is more surprising than the scale depicted on the screen
Yokohama in 1923 – Although Apple TV+’s original series “Pachinko” was set in this timeline in order to tell the story of Koh Han-su (Lee Min-ho), it also captures the tragedy of the Great Kanto Earthquake that happened that year. The drama depicts the streets of Yokohama through the scene of Han-su and his father (Jung Woong-in) walking together and the spectacular view of the entire city in a lively way. In the end, it’s just a premise to describe the vibrant and beautiful turning into hell overnight due to a huge earthquake.
Before meeting Sun-ja (Kim Min-ha) in Yeongdo, Busan and even having a baby with her, Han-su studied in the U.S and made lots of money in Japan. Eventually, Han-su, who hid the fact that he was married and got Sun-ja pregnant, has never given the viewers a good view of him. However, “Pachinko” portrayed the historical crisis in his life that made him become such a kind of person. Taking advantage of this chance, the drama presented the tragedy Han-su experienced through the Great Kanto Earthquake.
Han-su and his father, who were Jeju natives, lived in Yokohama with big dreams even though they were poor. Han-su’s father, who has a good sense of calculation, endured all kinds of humiliation when living under the Yakuza and was recognized. Blinded by love, he later embezzled money and ended up being pushed to the verge of death. However, at that moment, the Great Kanto Earthquake occurred and he died inside a collapsed building. Han-su, together with the Yakuza boss, survived and ran away from the city that was turning into hell with the aftershocks.
However, it is noteworthy that the drama captures the massacre of Koreans at that time amid the tragedy of the Great Kanto Earthquake. There are rumors that Korean criminals escaped from prisons due to the earthquake, and that they were stealing items and poisoning the water. Eventually, more terrible things happened when vigilante groups went around and slaughtered Koreans as soon as they saw them.
What is interesting is that the Yakuza boss helped Han-su, who was in danger, as “Pachinko” captures the historical fact of the massacre of Koreans in the Great Kanto Earthquake. It depicts the terrible atrocities of the vigilantes, but at the same time contains the Japanese who hid Han-su and Koreans as human beings. “Pachinko” depicts the terrible history of the time as it is, but it does not demonize all Japanese people.
In fact, “Pachinko” is a work that is praised all over the world, but the reason why it is neglected in Japan is because it boldly deals with the history that they deny. However, the proper sense of balance in “Pachinko” seems important. Rather than simply demonizing and portraying the horrors of the time emotionally, it arouses a general consensus by keeping an appropriate distance. This is why the history of “Pachinko” is more convincing.
“Pachinko”, which tells the story of how Han-su grew up through the historical background of the Great Kanto Earthquake, added a short subtitle at the end of episode 7. On September 1st, 1923, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9 hit the Kanto area. More than 100,000 people were killed. Among them were Koreans who were innocently victimized by Japanese vigilantes. The exact number of Koreans killed is unknown, but many historians estimate it to reach thousands.
Perhaps the sincerity contained in the spectacle, which devoted episode 7 to the Great Kanto Earthquake as well as restored the streets and cities of the time by adding CG, is in this subtitle. A few lines of subtitles are enough historical facts, but I wonder if there is an example of how well a drama can inform the world of the history denied by them.