One cannot simply outgrow or outlive a colonial, racist history. In order for the system to change, we need to stare at it and acknowledge it for what it is.
Lee shifts the onus of responsibility of suicide from the individual to a complex societal structure. She implies that it is not that the person who dies by suicide is weak or selfish, but rather that the surrounding society is broken.
In the Japan of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, hard-working Korean people are barred from decent jobs, safe housing, and access to protection from crime, forcing characters down non-ideal paths. Lee’s message seems to be that such paths can become honorable.
Pachinko is as much a story about money and prejudice as it about colonialism, war and globalization. Lee explores how politics effect the family unit, but more profoundly and perhaps perniciously, individuals’ sense of identity and self-worth that underpin their decisions.