While Apple TV+ Pachinko has only just arrived on our screens, the translation involved in its realization took more than a year. The acclaimed drama depicts Korean history by telling the story of immigrants who had to leave their homeland after Japan annexed Korea in 1910 and travel from place to place. As a result, their dialect was significantly changed.
The complex creative process Pachinko
On the surface, the cast speaks three languages throughout the series – Korean, Japanese, and English. But as immigrants traveled through different countries – Busan, Osaka and New York – to find a place they could call home, the different dialects of these languages came into play. Many translators and dialect experts were hired to ensure that the authenticity of how these languages were spoken was reflected in the drama,
One of these translators was Hwang Seok-hee, known for translating movies like dead Pool, VenomWarm bodies, as well as the hit HBO series, The iron Throne. In a recent video interview with AllKPop, he shared that the script for the series was originally written in English because writer and producer Soo Hugh was not fluent in Korean, despite her Korean-American heritage. Thus, the task of translating the script into Korean fell to Hwang Seok-hee.
He discovered that the Korean dialogues in the script were direct translations from English and therefore sounded weird. As in a scene where Kim Min-ha’s Sun-ja dodges Lee Min-ho’s Go Han-soo when he tries to pick up his bag, his original phrase in English is, “You should know that. I mean no harm.” But the direct Korean translation turned it into “Don’t worry, I won’t eat you.”
According to Seok-hee, he wanted to make the transitions more natural.
“In English, ‘I won’t eat you’ is very embarrassing. In Korea, we know what this sentence means, and the line is more natural when using this expression. So I had to communicate these things. When there were sentences in English, I could “I couldn’t find the exact Korean sentence to do justice, the writers changed the English sentence. It was a unique and fun experience.”
He also collaborated with theater actors, Jung Ma Rin and Byeon Jong Soo, to refine the use of Busan dialect and Jeju dialect in Pachinko. the The efforts paid off in the long run, as the series garnered a lot of praise for its flawless use of the Jeju dialect. Seok-hee opined,
“I think the production team of ‘Pachinko’ made a bold decision… We were going to soften the dialects if the actors had trouble memorizing the lines, but the actors also said they would practice. And in fact, they did a wonderful job of expressing the dialect.”
Pachinko airs weekly on Fridays on Apple TV+.