Lesson Five: East Asia after the Korean War

By: Brett Conway

Brett Conway

Education Collaborator

Brett Conway is currently a pre-service teacher at Concordia University of Edmonton. He has a M.A.s in English Literature and Asian Studies from the University of Ottawa and Sejong University, South Korea. He has taught at post-secondary schools in South Korea, Ontario, and Albera. He has published on a variety of topics including trauma, gender identity, and post-modernism.

Suggested Subject Areas

Social Studies

Grade Level

Grades 11-12


150 minutes over two classes

Learning Goals
Guiding Questions

What was the impact of the Korean War on East Asia? What are the experiences of East Asian communities in Canada since the 1950s?

Assessment Plan

Performance-based task.

Anticipated Challenges

Depending on the pre-existing narratives that students are bringing into the classroom, they might struggle to look at the Korean War from multiple perspectives, outside the lens of a single story.  They may need prompting to talk about the standpoints of the USA, Japan, North Korea, Russia (USSR), and China as well as South Korea.  As the unit develops— with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a scaffold for much of the material—the importance of hearing these voices from beyond simply a Canadian context will be clear.

Cognitive processes from Bloom’s Taxonomy are referred to throughout the lesson (remember, understand, apply) in order to help keep the end of the lesson in mind, thereby ensuring learning takes place and not just performance of learning. This unit is adaptable to elementary and secondary students with different processes for each (know, understand, apply for elementary; evaluate, analyze for secondary).  Please refer to Anderson et al. (cited below in the Additional Resources section), pages 12-23 for a deeper explanation.

Suggestions for what the teacher might say throughout the lesson are included below. Teachers are welcome to adapt these for their particular context and to enhance their specific students’ experience.

Student Supports

Students are welcome to use the written word as well as images, pictures, etc., to show their understanding of the content.  Some students may have family who experienced the Korean War either through family members living in Korea or as Canadian, American, Chinese, Korean, etc., combatants.  Those students may recount details and perspectives specific to the family experience in question. The teacher should support students in engaging thoughtfully with these histories and experiences, and ensure that emotional support is provided for students who may be especially impacted by these conversations.

Lesson Outline 

Introduction (approx. 5 minutes)

Display Article 26.2 of the UDHR to students either by projecting it or writing it on the board. A reminder that the article reads:

Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

Ask students to reflect on what they’ve learned about the Korean War so far, and East Asia more broadly, especially in the context of single stories. Students can turn to their elbow partners and discuss. What does this UDHR article mean? How has their understanding of the war and the region developed over the last few lessons? Can learning about conflict help things like “friendship among…nations” and the maintenance of peace? Why or why not?

Teacher Guided Learning (approx. 30 minutes)

Using a map on the wall or on a projector (the teacher could return to the interactive map GeaCron), point students to East Asia, specifically to those countries impacted/involved in the war: South Korea, North Korea, Japan, China, and Russia (USSR).

Either independently or in small groups, students should spend time writing down what they’ve learned so far about each of these countries. This can be done informally in a notebook or using a more formal graphic organizer (example below). What are their key takeaways from their readings, their research, the class presentations, etc? What questions do they have about these countries after the war through the present day—impacts, experiences, development, etc?

An organizer might look like this: *

South KoreaNorth KoreaJapanChinaRussia
3-5 key learnings so far from your readings, research, and from your peers’ class presentations
2-3 questions you have about this country after the war through the present day
3-4 learnings from my peers’ presentations

*Note: the last row of this organizer would be filled out after the student presentations that come later in this lesson.

Student Practice (approx. 100 minutes)

This activity involves grouping students together to learn about one of the aforementioned countries from 1953 through the present day, including the experience of East Asian immigrants to Canada. There can be five groups each assigned one of the countries, or up to 10 groups with each country assigned twice.

The teacher and students can decide whether students should continue to work within their original presentation groups and continue learning about the same country they worked with at that time, or work within the same groups and learn about a new country, or work within totally new groupings and countries (some students may end up in new groups but working on countries they presented about earlier—that’s fine).

Once in their groups and with a country assigned, students should discuss with their group members what they wrote in their notes/graphic organizer about that country. What are their key takeaways so far? What questions do they have about that country from 1953 onward?

The students will then prepare presentations for the rest of the class, which will focus on two elements:

These presentations can be done via slides, posters, or another information-based method. Presentations should not be performance-based (e.g. skits, scenes) so to avoid potentially harmful or stereotypical presentations.

Similarly to Lesson Three in this series, students can use this handout to plan their presentation:

Research Page


Groups should complete this document and have it approved by their teacher before moving on to creating their presentation.

Students can begin their research with the following sources, and should also do additional research specific to their countries.

Korean Canadians | The Canadian Encyclopedia

Japanese Canadians | The Canadian Encyclopedia

Chinese Canadians | The Canadian Encyclopedia

Russian Canadians | The Canadian Encyclopedia

Asian Canadians – Minority Rights Group

Eastern European Canadians – Minority Rights Group

East Asia Timeline

Key Points across East Asia: 1950-2000

Once presentations are ready, groups can present to the class. While students listen to their peers’ presentations, they can take notes about their learnings in their notebooks or on the same page as the graphic organizer they used above, now filling out the last row.

Closure (approx. 15 minutes)

Ask students to either complete a Google Form or write their answers to the following questions:

Students could be asked to talk about countries assigned to other groups, like:

Students could also be asked to reflect on their experience collaborating with their peers, like:

Additional Resources

Korean War

« Korean War ». The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Brazinsky, Gregg. Nation Building in South Korea: Koreans, Americans, and the Making of a Democracy. Chapel Hill: U. of North Carolina P., 2007.

Brasor, Philip. “Uncovering Japan’s Involvement in the Korean War.” The Japan Times. September 7, 2019.

Ch’oe, Youngcho, et. al. Sources of Korean Tradition. Volume Two: From the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Centuries. New York: Columbia U.P., 2000.

Cumings, Bruce. The Korean War: A History.  New York: Modern Library, 2011.

Cumings, Bruce. Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History. New York: Norton, 2005.

Kirk, Donald, and Choe Sang Hun. Korea Witness: 135 Years of War, Crisis and News in the Land of the Morning Calm. Seoul: Eunhaeng Namu, 2006.

Lankov, Andrei. The Dawn of Modern Korea: The Transformation in Life and Cityscape. Seoul: Eunhaeng NaMu, 2007.

Martin, Bradley K. Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty. New York: Thomas Dunne, 2006.

Myers, B. R., The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters.  New York: Melville Press, 2010.

Johnston, William, A War of Patrols: Canadian Army Operations in Korea (2003)

Human Rights

Morsink, Johannes.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Origins, Drafting & Intent. Philadelphia: U. of Pennsylvania P., 1999.

Trauma Informed Practice

Herman, Judith.  Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror.  New York: Basic Books, 1992.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Anderson, Lorin W. and David R. Krathwohl, editors. A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.  New York: Longman, 2001.