Pachinko – Season 1 Episode 5 Recap & Review

Chapter Five

Episode 5 of Pachinko begins with Sunja and Isak arriving in Japan. We’re up to Osaka 1931, as the hustle and bustle of Japan’s dock paves way for Sunja meeting Yoseb, Isak’s brother. He’s not exactly thrilled to see them, forcing a smile, as he admits that he and Kyunghee were shocked to learn of what’s happened.

Sunja feels like an outsider, especially as speaking Korean is frowned upon here. Sunja is silent while the two brothers talk. There are spies everywhere, and Isak is warned to keep his guard up (and his wits about him) as they arrive at the seaside town of Ikaino. There, Sunja meets Kyunghee for the first time. She’s kind, even showing off a tray full of food laid out for her. Of course, upon seeing this (especially the rice) she grows homesick and begins breaking down into tears.

In private, Yoseb worries that Sunja may be trapping her brother. He very clearly doesn’t trust her and remains suspicious of Sunja’s motives. At the same time, Sunja speaks to Isak, who promises to be by her side no matter what, admitting that he too feels like Japan doesn’t want him there. As the duo share their worries, they end up making love.

We then skip forward one month later. Sunja is still in Japan but her pregnancy is advancing. She’s sleeping in and struggling to do chores. as Kyunghee encourages her not to strain herself. Unfortunately, Kyunghee has done the washing and because of that, it’s taken the smell out of Sunja’s clothes; the smell of home.

“When does it go away?” Sunja sobs, “When does this pain end?” A long pause ensues. “It doesn’t.” Kyunghee says glumly, gently encouraging Sunja that she’ll learn how to endure it.

Unfortunately, the family is in trouble with the Japanese. They owe 160 yen to loan sharks, whom Yoseb actually borrowed money from to help pay for Sunja’s crossing to Japan. Unfortunately that debt has been doubled due to interest.

Sunja decides that, because this is her debt, she should be the one to take responsibility for this. She heads down to see a pawn broker, driving a hard bargain but managing to sell her golden from Switzerland for 300 yen.

Kyunghee joins Sunja as they head to the brokers, paying off their debt and gaining a stamped seal of approval to confirm as much. Together, they head out and run through the tight, winding streets. Koh Hansu heads back to the pawn shop and buys the watch from the sales assistant, pointing out that Sunja married a dreamer and for that, she’ll pay dearly.

In Busan 1989, Sunja walks through the bustling fish market, marveling at the sights. At the same time, Solomon makes it back to Tokyo where he meets an old friend from school. After Solomon’s little stunt with the hotel, he’s being blackballed from all the banks. Solomon is confident that he’ll be returning to New York but there are rumours that Mr Andrews is having issues with his finances. That would, unfortunately, mean Solomon would bear the brunt of this.

For now, Solomon remains fixated on trying to find Hana. It seems like she’s situated in the Yoshiwara area, and, specifically, by the Uguisudani stop. Funnily enough, he runs into Naomi at a friend’s party where the pair discuss Hana’s history and what happened between them. The gist of it is that when Solomon left for America, the pair went their separate ways.

Solomon eventually heads into Yoshiwara and begins asking around. Once there, he finds a guy called Haruki whom he knows from the past. Thy have ties to Mosazu, Solomon’s father. Although they have a pleasant evening together, there’s trouble brewing. Solomon speaks to Mr Andrews on the phone after who confirms that things don’t look good. Now, given Solomon’s US Visa is actually sponsored by Shiffley, if he’s fired then it means he would be stuck in Japan. However, Hana rings at that moment and pleads with him for help.

Over in Busan, Sunja scatters Kyunghee’s ashes into the water, as we start to learn more about their bond across this episode. Again, this comes back to the questionable editing of Pachinko by depicting her death early on without any context behind it.

Anyway, Sunja shows up to try and find details of where her father has been buried. After the worker classifies Sunja as “one of those” (Koreans who came across to Japan to work) it seems like a lost cause. That is, until she finds a file that appears to be linked to a relocation request. There’s also a name too: “Shin Bokhee”. This happens to be Sunja’s orphaned sister that her mother took in  and the pair have an emotional reunion. She shows where Sunja’s father has been buried, and thanks to Bokhee’s kindness, she gets to see his gravestone.

The Episode Review

Pachinko bows out this week’s episode with yet more evidence that this show really should have been told in chronological order like the book is. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic drama but at the same time there are special character ties and bonds that we feel like an outsider to because we’re not following Sunja’s life as she is. Comparably, that would be like watching Forrest Gump and seeing Lieutenant Dan at the end of the movie before jumping back and seeing him in the army. That journey would still be appealing and emotional, but nowhere near as effectively.

I mentioned it last episode but Kyunghee is a great example. She’s actually a really important person in Sunja’s life but you’d never guess it from the way this show just nonchalantly had her pass away and cut to Sunja sorting her bed out. It’s these little moments, coupled with the show’s dual timeline jumps, that make this feel more detached than it should.

Beyond that though, the story, directing and acting is absolutely on the money and there’s a lot of fascinating character ties and issues going on here that makes this a must-watch drama. Is it the best show this year and deserving of overwhelming critical acclaim all over the place? That’ll be one for you to decide! For me though, Pachinko is a very, very good drama but it’s certainly not perfect.

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You can read our full season review for Pachinko Season 1 here!


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5 thoughts on “Pachinko – Season 1 Episode 5 Recap & Review”

  1. Thanks for sharing the “move to Manchuria” explanation. I had an inkling that was a way of avoiding difficult words. But unless one has a good understand of Korean history, that bit of the episode isn’t fully appreciated.

  2. “Anyway, Sunja shows up to try and find details of where her husband has been buried.” Don’t you mean where her father was buried??

  3. Thank you for putting this incredibly important moment into comment historical context. I was looking for confirmation that this was what Bokhee meant. Such a sad and little known but terrible piece of history that should not be forgotten or shied away from. I understand why Bokhee didn’t want to discuss it explicitly, but I wish the show had been able to educate the viewer on the horrors of that practice and how it still affects Koreans today.

  4. Great recap and review! There’s one thing that most viewers probably missed unless they are Korean. When Bokhee says she and her sister Dokhee left for China because they were offered high paying jobs in Manchria, she implies that they were actually taken to be used as sex slaves ( comfort women) for Japanese soldiers. It was one of the common tricks that the Japanese often used to lure young Korean girls to leave their home. the That is why Dokhee was found (dead) by the stream they had used to wash their clothes at. She couldn’t bear to find herself so different from what she was like when they had been all living in their homeland so pure and happy, so she chose to end her life where she had good memories with her friend Sunja and her sister Bokhee. This reunion scene of Sunja and Bokhee created such deep sadness because neither of them spoke of the hurtful word, “comfort woman,” or of the painful past they had gone through, but they still understood and Sunja quietly shed tears.

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