ERIC Identifier: ED339672
Publication Date: 1991-08-00
Author: Johnson, Jeffrey R.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN.
Teaching about the Two Koreas. ERIC Digest.
Recent events in Europe suggest that the pattern of global ideological
struggle which provoked the division of Korea is apparently dissolving, giving
way to nationalist movements. The division of the Korean people now appears to
be anachronistic. There are signs that reunification is possible.
Despite the importance of the Korean peninsula in world affairs, the two
Koreas are often neglected in social studies courses. To promote effective
teaching about them, this ERIC Digest examines reasons for teaching about Korea
and ways to integrate Korea into the curriculum, while recommending useful
resources for teachers.
WHY SHOULD KOREA BE INCLUDED IN THE SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM?
Divided since the end of World War II, Korea has been a
center of international turmoil throughout much of its history. The Chinese,
Mongols, Japanese, Manchus, Russians, and Americans are among the foreign
peoples who have exerted military force on the peninsula, which lies in a
strategic location between the present-day Soviet Union, the People's Republic
of China, and Japan. Korean culture has thus received a number of outside
influences, yet Koreans possess a unique heritage of which they are proud, and
they continue to seek national reunification.
Issues involving Korea will continue to be in the news. The question of
reunification tops the list. The North Korean government and South Korean
dissidents have blamed the U.S. presence in South Korea for hindering the
reunification process. Conversely, South Korean leaders denounce the menacingly
large military force in the North. Reunification offers a number of potential
benefits, although the economic problems engendered by the rapid German
reunification have not gone unnoticed in Korea. Analysts look for both sides to
move cautiously. The future of the North Korean regime after the passing of its
aging leader Kim Il Sung is another pressing question. Timely issues such as
human rights, democratization, and the petitions of both Koreas for United
Nations membership will also be widely discussed in the foreseeable future.
Although divided, the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK or North
Korea) and the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea) have each attained levels
of infrastructure development which could not have been predicted when the
peninsula was in ruins at the end of the Korean War. In recent years, the
economy of communist North Korea has lagged far behind that of the capitalist
South, but the North Korean economy was for many years one of the most
successful among communist nations, and has thrived on a strategy of import
substitution and export promotion. Both countries have received large amounts of
foreign aid. Direct trade between the North and South, which has opened recently
on a small scale, may eventually lead to closer inter-Korean relations.
The United States and South Korea are economically interdependent. By the end
of the 1980s, South Korea was the United States' seventh largest trading
partner, and the United States was the fourth largest consumer of South Korean
exports and the second largest source of Korean imports.
The United Sates has a force of approximately 40,000 troops in South Korea to
defend the country against potential enemies. The United States military
commitment to South Korea and its economic ties with the nation ensure that
issues involving Korea will remain consequential to Americans. The Bush
Administration has reasserted the U.S. pledge to maintain a military force in
South Korea, although plans are under way to reduce the number of U.S. bases and
eventually to remove U.S. military personnel from Seoul.
Korea has contributed much to regional and world culture. Inlaid Koryo
celadons grace the world's finest museums. Korea has transmitted elements of
continental culture to Japan, as well as making its own innovative contributions
to Japanese culture. Korean movable type predates Gutenberg's version by several
centuries. The han'gul alphabet, developed in Korea in the fifteenth century, is
one of the world's easiest and most systematic scripts. T'aekwondo, a martial
arts indigenous to Korea, is practiced throughout the world for its benefits as
a sport and a means of self defense.
The number of Korean immigrants to the United States is growing steadily.
Large Korean-American communities exist in many cities. These immigrants have
demonstrated family and community solidarity, establishing churches and
cooperative business ventures. Like previous immigrant groups, Korean Americans
have experienced racial discrimination.
HOW CAN KOREA BE INTEGRATED INTO THE CURRICULUM?
as it is to the United States, the Korean peninsula is not likely to overtake
Japan, the Soviet Union, or the countries of Europe in the minds of curriculum
planners. Still, its virtual absence in today's curricula is unfortunate. Korea
can be introduced into a variety of courses to teach diverse skills at all
levels of the curriculum. Interest in Korea has been growing recently, and a
number of useful teaching aids were developed in anticipation of the 1988 Seoul
Olympics. The exploration of Korea in the classroom is only limited by the
EXPLORE KOREAN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE.
native English speakers find Korean grammar to be difficult, the han'gul
alphabet, with characters designed to represent the shape of the mouth during
speech, can be learned easily in a matter of hours. In primary grades, a
language lesson might include basic verbal greetings and gestures, along with
the introduction of han'gul. Korean stories and poetry appropriate to many
levels are now available in English translations. Some examples of these, as
well as a variety of literature on East Asian topics, can be found in the
catalogue of the non-profit JACP Inc., 414 E. 3rd Ave., P.O. Box 367, San Mateo,
CA 94401; (800) 874-2242.
EXAMINE KOREAN THOUGHT AND SOCIETY.
Today the Korean
peninsula is home to a variety of indigenous and borrowed systems of thought and
religion, and two radically different societies. North Korea has officially
abandoned the traditions of Confucianism and Buddhism for Marxism and juche,
ruler Kim Il Sung's doctrine of self-sufficiency. In rural parts of South Korea,
many folk religious practices are grounded in indigenous shamanism as well as
Confucianism and Buddhism, which came to Korea from China. Approximately
one-fifth of the South Korean population is Christian, the largest percentage
for any East Asian nation. Students at all levels might be introduced to these
thought systems with varying degrees of sophistication appropriate to students
of different ages and grades in school.
In elementary and middle grades, students may be asked to compare their own
daily schedules with those of Korean children and to then speculate about the
social values implicit in these activities. For example, they might question why
Korean school children have less free time than their American counterparts and
then compare the ways in which both groups use their available leisure time.
They might also be asked to compare Korean folk heroes with those from their own
High school students might be asked to compare the socio-political systems of
the two Koreas, realizing that each side is likely to have strengths as well as
weaknesses. Examining the impact of Western culture on the peninsula would
reveal to students the persistence of traditions despite the selective adoption
of foreign ideas. Despite its isolation, there is evidence that North Korean
society is experiencing limited economic liberalization, allowing some foreign
investment in joint business ventures. In South Korea, rapid social change and
increased affluence have been attended by demands from women, college students,
labor groups, and the growing middle class for greater participation in society.
INCLUDE KOREA IN UNITS ON EAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
Korea is too often slighted in East Asia surveys, treated merely in its
role as a conduit in the cultural exchange between China and Japan. In some
texts, Korea appears only during those periods when it was a bone of contention
between the two. Devoting appropriate attention to Korea, in its geographical
context, will allow teachers to point out the real diversity within the East
Asian cultural sphere. The study of Korea is also a good way to introduce the
concept of the Pacific Rim and the four "Newly Industrialized Countries" (NICs)
of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Cover both North and South
Korea. Politicians and journalists regularly use the term "Korea" to refer to
the southern state, exacerbating our ignorance of the DPRK.
DISCUSS KOREA IN UNITED STATES HISTORY COURSES.
War should be studied in units dealing with the Cold War, as the first major
test of the United States' policy of containment. The experiences of Korean
Americans may be studied along with those of other large immigrant groups to
illuminate both common and unique problems, as well as coping strategies. They
may also be used to assess the historical course of American attitudes and
policies toward newcomers.
UTILIZE AVAILABLE RESOURCES.
Publications such as THE NEW
YORK TIMES and CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR frequently carry articles on North and
South Korea. The weekly FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW and its Asia yearbooks are
excellent sources on the economics and politics of all Pacific Rim nations. The
U.S. Department of State offers a number of useful materials free or at a
Abundant sources of information on Korea are often overlooked. Contact local
toys and magazines, as well as rental videos of South Korean films and
television programs. Their proprietors may provide information and contacts with
local Korean-American communities. Korean student organizations at large public
and private universities may sponsor lectures and cultural events that are open
to the public.
General information about Korea can be obtained by writing or calling the
Information Office, Korean Embassy, 2320 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington,
D.C. 20008; (202) 939-5687.
History of North Korea - Offers a good overview of the history of North Korea.
History of South Korea - Provides a good overview of the history of South Korea.
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES
The following list of
resources includes references used to prepare this Digest. The items followed by
an ED number are in the ERIC system. They are available in microfiche and paper
copies from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS). For information about
prices, contact EDRS, 7420 Fullerton Road, Suite 110, Springfield, Virginia
22153-2852; telephone numbers are 703/440-1400 or 800/443-3742. Entries followed
by an EJ number are annotated monthly in CURRENT INDEX TO JOURNALS IN EDUCATION
(CIJE), which is available in most larger public libraries or university
libraries. EJ documents are not available through EDRS. However, they can be
located in the journal section of most libraries by using the bibliographic
information provided below.
Chai, Alice Yun and others. GLOBAL FEMINISM THROUGH CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS AND INTEGRATIVE FEMINIST POLITICS: THE CASE OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the National Women's Studies Association (10th, Minneapolis, MN, June 22-26, 1988). ED 304 372.
Chun, Tuk Chu. "Korea in the Pacific Community." SOCIAL EDUCATION 52(March
1988), 182. EJ 368 177.
Cumings, Bruce. THE TWO KOREAS. New York: Foreign Policy Association, 1984.
FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW ASIA 1990 YEARBOOK. Hong Kong: Review Publishing
Fleming, Dan B., and Burton I. Kaufman. "The Forgotten War: Korea." SOCIAL
EDUCATION 54(January 1990): 35-38. EJ 404 422.
FOCUS ON ASIAN STUDIES. Special Issue: "Korea: A Teacher's Guide." No. 1,
Kaltsounis, Theodore, and Se Ho Shin. "South Korea--A Country on the Move."
THE SOCIAL STUDIES 79(July-August 1988), 137-39. EJ 376 891.
Lee Ki-baik. A NEW HISTORY OF KOREA. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1984.
Lee Sang-sup. "The Arts and Literature of Korea." THE SOCIAL STUDIES
79(July-August 1988): 153-60. EJ 376 894.
Lee Young-sook, Jae-taik Yoo, and Jacqueline Johnson, eds. TEACHING ABOUT KOREA: ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY ACTIVITIES. Seoul, Korea, and Boulder, Colorado: Korean Educational Development Institute and Social Science Education Consortium, 1986. ED 292 718.
Lew, Seok Choon. "Life in South Korea Today." THE SOCIAL STUDIES
79(July-August 1988): 161-64. EJ 376 895.
Macdonald, Donald Stone. THE KOREANS, CONTEMPORARY POLITICS AND SOCIETY.
Second edition. Boulder: Westview Press, 1990.
Moulden, Rick. LETTERS FROM SOUTH KOREA. Seattle: University of Washington
East Asia Resource Center, 1988.
RESOURCES AND RESOURCE CENTERS: AFRICA, KOREA, LATIN AMERICA, MIDDLE EAST, SOUTH ASIA, SOUTHEAST ASIA SOVIET UNION, AND EASTERN EUROPE. New York: Columbia University, 1989. ED 323 133.
Shin, Se Ho. "South Korea and the Future." THE SOCIAL STUDIES 79(July-August
1988): 194-95. EJ 376 899.
VanDecar, Patricia. "Teaching About Korea in Secondary School." THE SOCIAL
STUDIES 79(July-August 1988): 177-93. EJ 376 898.
VanDecar, Patricia. "Teaching Elementary School Children about Korea." THE
SOCIAL STUDIES 79(July-August 1988): 170-76. EJ 376 897.
Youm, Kyu Ho and Michael B. Salwen. PRESS FREEDOM AND SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC PROGRESS IN THE FAR EAST: THE CASE OF SOUTH KOREA. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Education
in Journalism and Mass Communication (71st, Portland, OR, July 2-5, 1988). ED