'Pachinko's' Lee Minho and Kim Minha on Sunja and Hansu's 'Special' Bond

For actors Lee Minho and Kim Minha it was important to work closely to recreate the "special" bond shared by their characters Koh Hansu and Sunja in Pachinko, they told Newsweek.

The Apple TV+ show, which launched on Friday, March 25, and also stars Oscar-winner Youn Yuh-jung, is an epic story that spans decades of Sunja's life, switching back-and-forth between timelines to share her and her family's story of resilience in the face of adversity.

Lee and Kim star in the period of Sunja's life when she is a teenager and then a young woman, in which she and Hansu fall in love and later out of it when a secret of his is revealed and tears them apart.

The actors spoke to Newsweek about what it was like to work together to build Sunja and Hansu's relationship, with both heaping praise on the other while reflecting on their time on set.

Lee said: "I just loved working together with Minha and I think the love Sunja and Hansu is portrayed as something that's very different from what we call love in this era. That came to me as something very new and very special."

Kim agreed as she told Newsweek: "Yes, like Minho said the relationship between Sunja and Hansu was very complicated so that's why we had a lot of conversations [about] dealing with the scenes, and about about our characters.

"Working with him was very comfortable, and I learned a lot of things from him. So yeah, it was amazing working with him."

Lee Minho on Taking On the Role of Koh Hansu

Lee is a K-drama icon who has appeared in some of the most famous Korean shows to date such as Boys Over Flowers, City Hunter, and more recently The King: Eternal Monarch.

While he has a plethora of leading roles behind him, none of them are quite like Pachinko's Hansu, which is exactly why he wanted to take on the part.

"I think the storyline itself was very strong and [I thought] if I were on this project then I would be able to experience moments and feelings that I wouldn't have been able to," Lee said. "So that was why I really wanted to take part in this project."

Of his character, who has ties to Japan's criminal underworld, he added: "Everyone has some level of goodness and some level of cruelty in them, and when Hansu is not fully grown, and he's still young boy, I think I wanted to portray more of his goodness.

"Then throughout the career of his life he has to survive, so he has to become cruel, and he has to make harsh decision. In that aspect, I could really resonate with him and relate with it because it was decisions that he had to make."

Lee also shared that he found some of the scenes he played in Pachinko "heart-breaking," particularly the show's seventh episode which explores some of Hansu's early life.

Kim Minha on How She Connected to Sunja's Story

Kim also shared how she came to relate to Sunja both through the original novel and her own family history.

"The script itself as based on the novel, so I tried to figure out Sunja's character and how she is suffering, and how she's dealing with problems while I was reading the novel," Kim said of what she drew on to inform her characterization.

"But when I was trying to figure out the actual character I asked a lot [of questions] to my grandmother, she explained her own experience in that era.

"So yeah, I think I just tried to make a balance, to get to know Sunja in the novel as well as from my own personal experience and the stories from my grandmother."

Pachinko Director Justin Chon on Kim Minha and Lee Minho's On-Screen Chemistry

Justin Chon, who co-directed the series alongside Kogonada, also spoke to Newsweek about working with both Kim and Lee, commending their on-screen chemistry and the latter for his "electric" nature on set.

Praising Lee first of all, Chon said: "He's been on the scene for so long that I thought it was cool to see him in that way [as Hansu] and [he was] electric, you know.

"Some of the scenes where he's just with Minha I just was like, Oh, I think this is going to be [great], I think many men and women are going to really enjoy that chemistry."

He went on to say of Kim: "Minha had such a strong resilience in just her nature that just was so gravitational."

Chon also joked about how Lee drew fans to set whilst filming was underway, and shared how amusing it was for them to get so excited while watching the actor work on scenes.

"As a director it was really, really beautiful to see his fans outside the set," Chon said, before joking: "But also, at the same time, a bit like 'we got to work here!' because you can hear them like screaming across street!

"I'm shooting a scene and I'm like, God, okay this is nice that they're here but at the same time, you know, I think if they want the show to be good they've got to quiet down a bit."

The first three episodes of Pachinko are available to stream on Apple TV+ now, and episodes will now air weekly every Friday.

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Kim Minha as Sunja and Lee Minho as Koh Hansu in “Pachinko”.