Gangsters, Gambling, and the Korean Community in Japan: Questioning the Economic History of the Pachinko Industry


Tuesday, April 12, 2016, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


Common Room, 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138

Harvard-Yenching Institute Talk; co-sponsored by the Korea Institute

Jaehyang Han, Associate Professor, Hokkaido University; Harvard-Yenching Institute Visiting Scholar

Chair/Discussant: Carter J. Eckert, Yoon Se Young Professor of Korean History, Harvard University

In Japan, even though gambling is illegal, pachinko—a form of gambling—has become ubiquitous in daily life, with spending on pachinko even surpassing the automobile market at the peak of pachinko’s popularity. Generally speaking, the development of the industry has been explained by tax evasion, the hard work of the Korean ethnic minority, and the high-risk high-reward nature of pachinko itself. This presentation focuses on the relationship between the development of the pachinko industry and the Korean minority in Japan as a case study to examine the economic activities of Japan's ethnic groups, an unexplored aspect within Japanese economic history. While acknowledging the relevance of Koreans’ contribution to the growth of the industry, the talk will also look beyond the boundaries of the ethnic group to the wider context that shaped both the pachinko industry and the actions of the Korean minority, showing the importance of resource procurement, pachinko parlors’ desire to stabilize revenues, cooperative R&D systems and technological innovation among pachinko machine manufacturers.