What Happened to Sunja’s Mother in Pachinko?

Image Credit: Juhan Noh / Apple TV+

Pachinko’ is an epic period-drama series spanning over seven decades. It is based on Korean-American author and journalist Min Jin Lee’s 2017 namesake novel. The story begins in the early years of the Japanese occupation of Korea and encompasses World War II, the bombings, and the subsequent years until the late 1980s and revolves around a Korean Japanese family. The show primarily focuses on Sunja (Yu-na Jeon as the child, Minha Kim as the teen, and Youn Yuh-jung as the adult), who comes to Osaka from Busan with her husband in 1931, leaving her home and mother, Yangjin (Inji Jeong) behind. When she returns home in 1989, she reunites with Bokhee, an old friend who used to live and work at Sunja’s family’s boarding house. Bokhee tells Sunja that she hasn’t seen the latter’s mother since her return to Korea after the war. If you are wondering what happened to Yangjin, this is what you need to know. SPOILERS FOR BOTH THE SHOW AND LEE’S NOVEL AHEAD.

What Happened to Sunja’s Mother?

The Korea part of the narrative begins with Yangjin. After losing her three sons before they reached their first birthdays, Yangjin approaches a female shaman, who tells her that a daughter is coming, and through her, their family will survive. Yangjin is married to Hoonie, who has a twisted foot and cleft palate since birth. Due to the occupation, the economy of Korea has been completely devastated, leaving numerous people penniless. However, Hoonie’s family is financially stable due to sensible living. He runs a boarding house that he inherited from his parents with Yangjin’s help.

Image Credit: Juhan Noh/Apple TV+

Sunja is Hoonie and Yangjin’s daughter. Although the country around her fight against colonial rule, Sunja experiences a happy and largely sheltered childhood. Hoonie hopes to get his daughter educated but is dissuaded by his wife. Eventually, Hoonie dies of tuberculosis, but his family endures. Yangjin continues to run the boarding house with the help of her daughter. When she learns about her daughter’s pregnancy, she becomes deeply troubled, thinking about what the future might hold for Sunja. It seems that fate steps in, and Isak, a Christian pastor whom Yangjin nursed back to health, agrees to marry Sunja and give his name to her unborn child. Yangjin is subsequently forced to say goodbye to her daughter as Sunja leaves for Osaka.

We learn from Bokhee’s account what happened next. Bokhee and her younger sister Donghee continued to help Yangjin run the boarding house. When World War II broke out, life became even harder in Korea. Bokhee and Donghee felt they are being a burden on Yangjin and left to work in Manchuria. When they came back, Yangjin wasn’t there.

In Lee’s book, we know that Sunja eventually reunites with her mother. Koh Hansu, Sunja’s former lover and the father of her first child, brings Sunja and the remnants of her family to the countryside after the war begins. By this point in the story, Isak has died. Sunja has two sons. Noa is her child with Koh Hansu, whereas Mozasu is her son with Isak. Koh Hansu has been watching over Sunja’s family for years and secretly helping them with financial issues.

It is during Sunja’s stay in the countryside that Koh Hansu brings her mother to her. The creators of ‘Pachinko’ have already taken liberties that separate the show from the original material in several aspects. However, the overarching plot has remained the same. If that continues to be the case, there is a high chance that Sunja will be reunited with her mother in the show as well.

Read More: When and Where Is Pachinko Set?