Min Jin Lee

American Writer

Min Jin Lee is a Korean-American writer, Journalist, and Lawyer, from Seoul, South Korea.

Min Jee Lee is widely known for her written accomplishments in ‘Free Food For Millionaires’ and ‘Pachinko’, published in 2007 and 2017 respectively. While the former was a force to be reckoned with at the time of its publication, the latter went on to make the finalist for the 2017 National Book Awards.


Life Facts

  • Min Jin Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea.
  • Her father was a refugee from the Korean War, and her mother hailed from a good Christian home.
  • At age 7, Lee immigrated to the United States with her parents and sisters.
  • Lee is a historian, a lawyer, and a practicing journalist.

Interesting Facts

  • As a child, Lee was too shy she would do everything possible to avoid getting attention in school.
  • She admitted that her writing passion wasn’t always centered on crafting novels, she wanted to become a political writer from the onset.
  • She learned how to effectively write due to her own personal experiences as an immigrant living in a foreign country.
  • Despite having written dozens of journals, reviews, and short stories, Lee has only written 3 books to date; ‘Free Food For Millionaires’ in 2007, ‘Pachinko’ in 2017, and ‘Han: roman’ in 2020.
  • She is currently working on ‘American Hagwon’, the final piece of her Korean diaspora trilogy.


Famous Books by Min Jin Lee

Min Jin Lee rose from being a troubled immigrant to becoming a celebrated one due to her skill in hysterical storytelling which has enabled her to have a great contribution to the body of literature.

Lee started writing as far back as the mid-1990s and has completed several written works – including reviews and short stories. However, when it comes to novels, the prolific writer has only mustered less than a handful. Her most popular ones will be looked into.

Pachinko’ is considered Min Jin Lee’s best and follows the story of a poor Korean family down to the fourth generation with a focus on the central character Sunja who goes on through pain and perseverance to become the matriarch of the Baek family.

Through values and industriousness, and a good dose of determination, Sunja rose above the limitations of poverty, extreme societal discrimination, and the loss of loved ones to bring up her children into responsible adulthood. The book is packed with the cultures and experiences of immigrant life and was nominated for the National Book Award for Fiction.

Free Food For Millionaires is regarded as Min Jin Lee’s first-ever novel wartime in 2007. The book, which was a force to be reckoned with during the time it was published, follows the story of the daughter of a Korean immigrant, Casey Han, in New York City. Lee uses this book to capture the experiences and lives of children who were Korean-Americans living in the United States. The book made it into The Times’ top 10 novels of 2007.


Early Life

Born in Seoul, South Korea, to a former refugee of the Korean War and the daughter of a popular minister, Min Jin Lee spent the first six years of her life in Asia and by age 7, she relocated to the United States with her family. Lee grew up around her sisters and has a sort of happy childhood when she was around her family, with her parents Venturing into owning a jewelry store in a Koreatown in Manhattan. Lee admitted that she and her sisters would occasionally visit their parents’ shore to help out. However, outside the company of her family, Lee had quite the trying experience, and this happened especially at school where, in her class, she was one of the two Korean girls, and didn’t know how to speak English when she first arrived. This, plus her Asia looks, made her classmates – including getting other Korean girls to jeer and banter at her at the slightest show of attention. Despite all of that, Lee would triumph through the troubles of her immigrant life and take inspiration from her experiences to hone her creative writing and storytelling skills, two important skills which would later bring her fame and recognition.

Literary Career

Influenced by her immigrant experiences, Lee opted to study history at Yale University after which she enrolled at Georgetown for a degree in law. She went to New York and practice law for two years, but by the 1990s, she started learning how to write subsequently writing short stories and several reviews of popular books.

Her industry focused on immigrant life, specifically on the Korean diaspora. She put her first novel in 2007 titled ‘Free Food For Millionaires’, and ten years later released ‘Pachinko’. While the former got enlisted into The Times’ top 10 novels of 2007, the latter became a finalist for the National Book Award for literary fiction.


Literature by Min Jin Lee

Explore literature by Min Jin Lee below, created by the team at Book Analysis.