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[Herald Interview] How Teresa Kang Executive Producer of ‘Pachinko’ Brought Bestsellers to Apple TV+

Teresa Kang, executive producer of “Pachinko” (Teresa Kang)

When Teresa Kang read “Pachinko” by Korean-American author Lee Min Jin, about four years ago, she felt that the book embodies the feeling of being a very good Korean.

It was a story about Korean history but also about Korean immigration and diaspora. I thought it covered a lot of ground and it was Zainichi’s view that I had never heard of within the Korean diaspora before. “At least not on screen or on the page,” she said in a Zoom interview with The Korea Herald. “Zainichi,” meaning “to stay in Japan,” is a Japanese term used to describe the ethnic Koreans in Japan.

The new eight-episode series “Pachinko” from Apple TV + tells the hopes and dreams of a Korean immigrant family across four generations. The show focuses on the life of Son Ja, a woman born to a poor family in Busan in the early 1900s who was forced to move to Japan during the Japanese colonial period.

Kang thought from the start that global audiences would be able to resonate with this special Korean story.

“I thought the global audience would actually like it because of some of the comments I got from my friends in America, Europe and Latin America,” she said.

She explained that one of her friends of Cuban origin said she could relate to the story because her parents are refugees who fled the country, similar to Sonja, who had to leave Korea alone during the Japanese colonial period.

“I heard this from friends who are also from Europe, Jews or Americans. I think it was a very universal story.”

Although she started working on the project before Korean-related content like “Minari” and “Squid Game” became a global hit, she said she could go ahead with the project because she thought the timing was right.

During her interview, Kang also shared how it all began with “Pachinko” screenwriter Soo Hyo, the mastermind behind the script, with different generations taking turns telling their stories rather than them appearing in chronological order. Hugh also created the show’s opening sequence, where the various characters dance with glee.

She said, “She and I had dinner together at my house and said, ‘I think it’s really important that you write this story because you’re a really good writer and you’re a really good producer.

A scene from the Apple TV + series “Pachinko” (Apple TV +)

The writer’s response initially was similar to the other writers Kang offered the script to: doubts about turning the book into a TV series.

“In my career as an agent and now a producer, my job is to strategize for the sale of a project, and then negotiate deals,” she said. “And I told Sue if I come up with a creative vision for the project, I think that’s the first piece. Then I can figure out the rest of the strategy.”

When pitching the project to executives from different companies, Kang said she had done her research thoroughly beforehand.

In ‘Pachinko’ specifically, I felt that Asian executives were wanted. There were very few Koreans and even Asian American executives. And then when we couldn’t find Asian executives, I looked for people of color because I felt it was a story about Someone who feels foreign and I think people of color in America can relate to that.” “We advanced to six places.”

When filming the piece, Kang said the producers made sure the historical facts were correct.

“We also had – over the course of the entire series – 20 historians who gave advice on the series,” she said.

We had scholars from Korea and Japan. We had Zenichi scholars living in Japan. We’ve had authors write about Zainichi. They have consulted with us. It was important for us to get the historical facts as accurately as possible.”

The CEO said she has become interested in the entertainment business in the United States, where Asian women are scarce of executive products, mainly because of parents who place so much value in art.

“My dad has really good taste in the cinema so he would say to me, ‘Hey, you should watch this, you should watch this.'” My mother is a pianist. She studied at Seoul National University. She really encouraged us about music and art.

Also, for the first time in her career, Kang said that she invited her parents to the premiere of her show. She said her parents had a great time watching the show and were eager to give feedback in a hurry.

“He said ‘Squid Game’ is doing really well around the world. This is very different from ‘Squid Game’ so we’ll see,” she said, describing her father’s reaction.

Near the end of the interview, Kang briefly hinted at the show’s second season.

“There is already a vision for a second season,” she said. “It’s going to be more epic and love stories out there, and there’s more.”

Since the release of the first three episodes of “Pachinko” on March 25, a new episode has appeared every Friday later. Five episodes have been released so far, and three more episodes will remain.

Written by Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)

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