Lesson Six: Legacies of 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


200+ minutes over three classes

Learning Goals
Guiding Questions

Given what you have learned throughout this unit, what is your understanding of the Korean War and the countries involved in/impacted by it? How should Canada commemorate the war? How do we teach and remember the war in ways that resist single stories?

Assessment Plan

Final essay

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 engage in an alternate task that is not an essay, such as an audio or video response, a comic book, a one-on-one conversation with their teacher, 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. 15 minutes)

Ask students what the word “legacy” means. Make sure the class has a shared understanding of how they are using the term.

Either independently or with their elbow partner, students reflect on what the legacy of the Korean War might be. Would “legacies” plural be a more appropriate way to think about it? Would different countries perceive this legacy differently? How do we remember the impacts of a conflict such as the war in a way that resists single stories?

Students can share some of their answers and discuss as a group before moving on.

Teacher Guided Learning (approx. 15 minutes)

Show students the following video (5:17):

As they watch, they should take notes on how the video is presenting the legacy of the Korean War. Whose perspective is the video from? Are there perspective missing?

Students can briefly share their answers before moving in to the next task.

Student Practice (approx. 60 minutes)

Ahead of the next step in this lesson—the student evaluation—students will spend time in small groups considering how Canada should remember and commemorate the Korean War.

The teacher should project or write on the board a definition of “commemoration” such as:

A commemoration is something that is done to remember a person or event. A commemoration can feel celebratory and/or solemn, and might be done to remember, honour, respect, or give official recognition.

The teacher can either ask students for examples or provide some themselves. Examples of commemorations include public ceremonies, official holidays, naming something in someone’s honour (e.g. roads, buildings), starting a prize or fundraising initiative in someone’s honour, public art pieces, statues, monuments, plaques, ongoing museum displays, takeovers of public space (e.g. memorial gardens), etc.

The teacher should bring up the question of curricula and how events and people are taught about in schools. Is this also a form of remembering? If so, what are the ways we should teach about the Korean War, for example, to commemorate and bring awareness to its legacies?

Students will then work together in small groups to consider the legacies of the Korean War in Canada and how the Korean War should be included in curricula. These can be the same groups as previous lessons or new ones.

Groups should receive a piece of chart paper (or multiple ones, if that works best) and some markers to write their ideas. The chart paper should track their answers to the following questions:

Students can use the chart paper as a mind map, a list of jot notes, or whatever other form of brainstorming works for them. Other groups will be able to see the chart paper during the next step.

If students would like to reference additional materials about Korean War commemoration in Canada, they can look at these resources:

Once groups have filled their chart paper, they can post it somewhere in the classroom to create a gallery walk. Students then engage in a gallery walk to take in the ideas of all the groups. It is up to the teacher and the students whether this is simply a reading of the content, or whether students can engage in responding to the chart paper by adding checkmarks to ideas they like/agree with, post-it notes to add helpful questions and feedback, etc.

Student Evaluation (approx. 100 minutes)

As a final evaluation for this unit, students will write a brief essay (approximately 500 words) about what they’ve learned. Their essay should have an introduction and a conclusion, and the body of the essay should address the following content:

Each of the above questions could be addressed in a separate paragraph or could be interwoven throughout, at the student’s discretion.

Students should brainstorm and outline their ideas into a structure of five paragraphs (intro, three body paragraphs, and conclusion), including:

Students should show their outline to the teacher for approval before moving on to drafting.

The teacher can use the following rubric to assess student essays or create one of their own:


Closure (approx. 10 minutes)

At this point, the class can come together for a final discussion where they share what they’ve learned (or unlearned) during this unit, and any remaining reflections or questions they have. They could also share a highlight of their learning from the unit.

Since the students have been considering how best to teach about the Korean War, they could also offer the teacher feedback about the unit and how to engage in this learning next time they teach this class.

Optional Enrichment

For early finishers, for curious students, or for further class enrichment, the students could engage with picture books and/or short stories from the countries studied in this unit. These do not have to be about the Korean War specifically, but can be about and by East Asian individuals and their lived experiences overall.

Students could engage in reading the books aloud to the class and/or presenting informal book summaries to their peers. These book summaries could include an introduction to the story, reflections on cultural representation in the story, and how this story might expand our understanding and resist single stories of Asian-Canadians.

For resources on book options:

23 books for kids and young adults to celebrate Asian Heritage Month in Canada | CBC Books

Canadian Multiculturalism Day: Books lists for kids and teens — Dyslexia Canada

Japanese Canadian Books – Nikkei history, Japanese culture– Nikkei National Museum Shop

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.