The Korean War


US History (11th) Early Cold War Through Vietnam The Korean War
Students begin with a map-based activity that challenges them to pose questions about Korea. Next, they learn the facts about the events of the Korean War. Then, they examine the effects of the war, including its lasting impact on the United States and the world. Finally, they work in small groups to prepare a report on the current conflict between North Korea and the United States.

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Overview

In this experience, students begin with a map-based activity that challenges them to pose questions about Korea. Next, they learn the facts about the events of the Korean War. Then, they examine the effects of the war, including its lasting impact on the United States and the world. Finally, they work in small groups to prepare a report on the current conflict between North Korea and the United States.

Students will collaborate in small groups in scene 4.

Objectives

  • Describe the causes of the Korean War.
  • Define the containment policy.
  • Explain the outcomes of U.S. involvement in the Korean War.


Shortly after the end of World War II, the United States was once again involved in a war on the other side of the world. This time it was in Korea, and the struggle was not between democracy and fascism but between capitalism and communism. In this experience, you’ll learn about the Korean War in depth.

Objectives

  • Describe the causes of the Korean War.
  • Define the containment policy.
  • Explain the outcomes of U.S. involvement in the Korean War.
Most Americans don’t remember or think about the Korean War in the same way that they think about the wars that preceded and followed it—World War II and the Vietnam War. For this reason, the Korean War is sometimes referred to as “The Forgotten War.” But its impact was immense and still affects us today.




The Korean peninsula at night, 2012


Look at the satellite image of the Korean Peninsula at night. Locate the border between North and South Korea.


Ask one or more questions based on what you see in the image.



Have students try to infer answers to the questions that the class posed. Sample questions and answers:

  • Locate the border between North and South Korea. What do you notice immediately about the difference between the two countries? (North Korea has much less lighting than South Korea.)
  • What do you think is represented by the big bright patch on the photo? (Seoul, the capital and largest city of South Korea)
  • What are the smaller bright areas in South Korea? (smaller cities)
  • What is the small, bright spot in the lower left area of North Korea? (Pyongyang, the capital and largest city)
  • What can you infer from the photo about the differences between the two Koreas? (North Korea is a much less industrialized, populous county than South Korea.)

An incorrect inference students might draw from the image is that North Korea is less powerful militarily than South Korea. That conclusion is likely false, because North Korea is an absolute dictatorship that has devoted most of its resources to building its military rather than serving its people.

If time permits, show students the video Jimmy Kimmel Asked Americans to Find North Korea on a Map and challenge them with Jimmy Kimmel’s question: Can you locate Korea on a map? The video is entertaining and funny; students may enjoy viewing it on their own.


As of 2016, North Korea had only an estimated 25,000,000 people compared to South Korea’s 49,000,000—almost twice as many. South Korea is also much richer, and it is far ahead of North Korea in every measure of development except for military expenditures.

If you would like more information about the similarities and differences between North and South Korea, explore South v North Korea: How Do the Two Countries Compare? Visualized.


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