Lesson Two: The UDHR and 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


75 minutes

Learning Goals
Guiding Question

In what ways can the UDHR help us understand how to move beyond “single stories” in learning and talking about the Korean War?

Assessment Plan

Exit slip.

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 reactions to the Korean War and their understanding of single stories.  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)

Ask students to turn and talk to their neighbour about single stories. What do they remember about the concept or from the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie video from the previous class?

Invite students to share aloud. Ask them to draw connections to the Korean War, as they did in the previous class. What perspectives and whose stories were missing from the videos they watched? What questions do they still have about the Korean War?

Close the conversation by asking students why it is important to engage in this conversation and to try to find the answers. If any student mentions human rights, the diversity of perspectives and populations, etc., that could be a fortunate jumping off point into the next element of the lesson.

Teacher Guided Learning (approx. 30 minutes)

Show students the following video (4:46 minutes) about human rights.

If the teacher would like to consolidate independent understanding before further discussion, they can send students to the TED website for the video to take a brief quiz (8 questions). The quiz is found below the video, under the “Think” tab.

If students have not previously completed any work about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, share this link with them and ask them to read through it—this is to get a general sense and to understand its main ideas, not for a detailed understanding. Students can write down 5-7 comments and/or questions they have as they read it.

As a class, discuss what students understand from the document. Overall, what is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? What kinds of rights does it protect?

Student Practice

The teacher should direct student attention to Article 26.2, and can also project it or write it on the board:

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.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26.2

Ask students to reflect on what they think the article means. They can discuss with their neighbour as well before engaging as a whole group. What should education look like, according to this article? Would teaching only a single story fit within this article, or should we resist teaching single stories as much as we can?

The teacher should draw a connection to learning about the Korean War in this context. How can learning about it in a thorough way, from many perspectives, lead to “understanding, tolerance, and friendship” among nations? How might we learn about the Korean War in a way that moves beyond single stories by listening to stories from Canada but also beyond—from the other countries and their populations involved in and/or impacted by the war?

The teacher should remind students that countries like Japan, China, and Russia (USSR) were also involved in or impacted by the Korean War, but we may not often know or teach the impacts on them here in Canada.

In small groups, students should be assigned one of the following Canadian Encyclopedia articles about people from the above countries who now reside in Canada. They should read and discuss their key takeaways in their groups. What did they learn about the group of people discussed in the article? Each article should be read by at least one group, though it may be assigned more than once, depending on the size of the class.

Korean Canadians | The Canadian Encyclopedia

Japanese Canadians | The Canadian Encyclopedia

Chinese Canadians | The Canadian Encyclopedia

Russian Canadians | The Canadian Encyclopedia

Exit Slip (approx. 5 minutes)

Either on paper or via Google Form, ask students to write about 1-2 key takeaways from their reading. What did they learn about the group they read about? Do they have pre-existing connections to that group? Was the information new to them? How might reading about other groups help us move beyond single stories of events such as the Korean War and its impacts?

Additional Resources

Korean War

« Korean War ». The Canadian Encyclopedia.

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.