Lesson Four: The Korean War in the News

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 Question

What stories did newsreels tell about the Korean War? How might we represent the Korean War via newsreels that demonstrate historically-informed perspectives of different countries?

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 participate in this task in ways that represent their different interests and capacities—writing, directing, performing, etc. 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)

Remind students that, during the last few classes, the students have spent time learning about East Asian history and context leading up to the Korean War. They spent time researching, presenting, and learning about the perspectives of different countries.

Ask students to think about how they learn about contemporary events happening in the world. Where do they get information? Where do their parents or other trusted adults get information? Do they consider these sources reliable?

Ask students to share out their examples with the class. They will likely be internet-heavy, with some examples of the television or newspapers for their parents or trusted adults.

Ask students how the general public might have accessed information about events during the time of the Korean War (early 1950s). What sources did they have access to? Students will likely say newspapers, radio, television.

The teacher will likely have to introduce the idea of newsreels, which are short films about current events that were shown in movie theatres. More on this in the next section.

Teacher Guided Learning (approx. 30 minutes)

Show students the following video (3:26m) :

Briefly engage students in a conversation about newsreels. What are they? What are their key takeaways about them from the video?

Next, the teacher can either go through this media timeline with the whole class, or divide students into small groups to read through it together. The goal is for students to think about and discuss how media has changed over time, and specifically to focus on what media would have been like during the Korean War. What media would Canadians have relied on to get their news about it? Would different countries have different sources of information?

Coming back to newsreels, the teacher will show the following four Korean War newsreels to the class.

Note: Teachers are advised that some of the following material includes images and sounds from elements of war such as bombings, weapons, refugees, canon fire, etc. Teachers should watch the videos before presenting them to the class, and let students know the videos include these elements in the way that best supports their specific classroom needs. A guide on how to handle potentially traumatic materials (e.g. violent, racist, etc.), and the role of content warnings, can be found here.

Briefly ask students for their first impressions of these videos. What do they think of them as a source of news? What elements of the war do they represent? Whose perspectives are represented? How can you tell?

Student Practice (approx. 100 minutes)

Students return to their research presentation groups from the last class. Each student receives a copy of the following worksheet. The teacher should review the worksheet with the class before asking students to work on it.

The worksheet asks students to work together to answer questions about one of the newsreels above, though each student should take down notes about their answers. Then, students work together to create a newsreel as per the instructions on the sheet.

At the teacher’s discretion, the teacher and students can work together to create success criteria for the newsreels beforehand as well. This criteria might include:

Newsreel Worksheet


Once newsreels are complete, divide students into jigsaw groups with at least one representative from each of the newsreel groups. Students take turns showing their newsreels to their jigsaw groups.

Closure (approx. 15 minutes)

As a class, discuss the impact of watching the newsreels. What did students notice about the videos? What was it like to create the videos? Do the videos help create a thorough understanding of the Korean War? Why or why not? How does the news reinforce or resist telling a single story? Are some sources better at this than others?

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.