KOREA: Shaping a New Era...
An "appointment by acclamation," reported the International
Herald Tribune in October 2006, as South Korea's Ban Ki-moon was
chosen to become the new Secretary-General of the United Nations. "
'My tenure will be marked by ceaseless efforts to build bridges and close
divides,' " promised the veteran diplomat in his acceptance speech.
Then, as if to guarantee that pledge, he commented on the world region
from which he comes to the UN table: " 'Asia is a region where modesty
is a virtue,' he said. 'But the modesty is about demeanor, not about …
goals. It does not mean the lack of commitment…. Rather, it is quiet
determination to get things … [done].' "
In Ban's remarks we might also find a mirror of his native culture. Today's
South Koreans are deeply conscious of their centuries-old heritage. ("Many
consider Korea to be the most Confucian society in the world," observed
Pictorial Korea in June 2006.) But they are also vigorous participants
in the global community. Their government is joined with other nations
in pursuit of such long-range goals as nuclear fusion. And their business
leaders work at the continued expansion of a very high-tech economy. ("South
Korea [is] the world's most wired country," observed The New
York Times in April 2006.) As visitors to South Korea quickly discover,
the blend of modernity with tradition is a hallmark of this once isolated
Cultural continuity between past and present is just one of the many
social studies themes your students can explore with this unit on South
Korea. Using pages developed especially for classroom courses, your students
will go a long distance toward understanding a truly great people....
Plus! They can also work on their comprehension skills! See LE's new section
on sharpening students' Social Studies Reading Skills,
as they learn more about South Korea today.
This unit is appropriate for high school courses in world history, world
regions, international relations, and contemporary issues. It has been
written to help students achieve standards of learning (SOLs) suggested
by the following guidelines: National Standards for World History
(NSH), Expectations of Excellence (EOE), and National Geography
Standards (NGS). Thus, students using the unit should be better able
- "identify the human characteristics that make specific regions of
the world distinctive." Standard 10, "Human Systems" (NGS)
- "[illustrate] how changing perceptions of places and environments
affect the spatial behavior of people." "How To Apply Geography
to Interpret the Past" (NGS)
- "apply key concepts such as time, chronology, causality, change,
conflict, and complexity to explain, analyze, and show connections
among patterns of historical change and continuity." "I. Time,
Continuity, and Change" (EOE)
- "analyze how such countries as South Korea ... have achieved economic
growth." "Era 9: The Twentieth Century Since 1945," Standard
- "analyze ... consequences of the world's shift from bipolar to multipolar
centers of economic, political, and military power." "Era 9:
Major Global Trends Since World War II," Standard 3 (NSH)
Public speakers in political and economic forums often use the term Korea
when speaking of the Republic of Korea. However, when students research
this country, they'll find that most sources use South Korea and
North Korea as index or catalog terms. (And another variation:
Entering the term Korea on the Google
News search facility turns up a mix of articles on both countries.)
This unit uses South Korea for the post-1948 period and Korean
when referring to the time before that or to the people's culture.
Other terms that you may want to preview include: annexation, broadband
technology, Buddhism, Confucianist, consumer-robot industry, currency-exchange
rate, cyberspace, demarcation line, dynasty, economic issues, Eurasia,
free-trade agreement, global economy, impoverished, industrial center,
innovation, media specialist, myth, nuclear-weapons program, peninsula,
purchasing power (defined within text), truce, unicameral, and
wired (as in: connected to the Internet).
LE's unit has been developed around a "widening-circles" approach to the
study of modern-day societies. South Korea is explored first as a nation,
next as a member of a geopolitical region, and finally as a participant
in global affairs. Running through all three student pages are
underlying questions: What challenges and what opportunities
do South Koreans face, in the 21st century? How might their
history on the peninsula affect their perception of today's world? In
what sense are they shaping a new era at home and abroad? You may
want to use those questions as well as the "Ponder This..." questions
at the end of each page to evaluate students' grasp of what they
BACKGROUND ON STUDENT PAGES
As you introduce this unit to students, ask them to recall moments in
past centuries when particular groups of people helped to "shape
a new era"; ask how (and where) that same process might be occurring
today, in the 21st century. And then urge students, as they read each
of the three Student Text Pages in this unit, to watch for examples of
how South Koreans are now shaping a new era. Here's some additional information
about key themes and topics on these pages, plus a few "TIPS"
for exploring them with your class:
1. Student Text Page No. 1: "As a
Nation." South Korea is introduced through a glimpse of its
capital, Seoul. Plus: origin of the terms "South Korea" and
"North Korea" (see the "Region" Page for more information
on the "two Koreas"); a summary of how South Korea's economy
has grown since the Korean Conflict; and a look at the impact of modernization
on a society with long-standing cultural traditions.
Seoul: Two viewpoints. The population of South Korea's
capital city is now about 11 million — and climbing rapidly. In
fact, according to a recent
article in the OECD Observer, Seoul's wider metropolitan
region is the world's second-largest and is "locked into" other
sprawling metropolises around the world" (New York, Shanghai, Mexico
City, and Paris, for example) — as though "part of a [global]
network." That concept gives rise to some thought about the impact
of globalization on big cities. TIP:
Share the OECD observation with students, then ask them: Can a city whose
bankers, investors, commercial managers, and other citizens carry on daily/hourly
transactions with their counterparts around the world retain the cultural
"stamp" (language, customs, traditions, etc.) of its earlier
centuries? (Should we expect it to?) After sampling student opinions,
share this next observation from the Lonely Planet's online guide to "Korea":
"Seoul is an intriguing city transforming itself from the …
[ancient] capital of the Hermit Kingdom [in]to a major mover and shaker
on the international scene…. Seoul was battered by Japanese and
Manchu invasions in the 16th and 17th centuries and flattened by the Korean
War; most of its cityscape is modern. [Yet, though] overshadowed by high-rises
and 12-lane freeways, it … retains a hidden history of centuries-old
temples, palaces, pagodas and pleasure gardens." Invite students
to rethink their earlier comments: Are tradition and change compatible,
or are they mutually exclusive?
statistics: GDP. The CIA World Factbook now provides
two statistics for each nation's gross domestic product (GDP) —
one based on "purchasing power parity" (ppp) and the other,
on "official exchange rate." On March 15, 2007, the Factbook
section on "Korea,
South" indicated that South Korea's GDP ranked 11th among those
of other nations, according to the ppp measurement. On that date, the
GDP in ppp terms was $1.18 trillion — almost $283 billion "higher"
than the GDP figure that was based on the official exchange rate ($897.4
billion). And yet the exchange-rate figure put South Korea into 10th place!
Either way, the overall picture seems undeniable: South Korea's economy
is an amazing success story. (See this unit's Data
Page for even more details.) TIP:
Both GDP rankings are mentioned in the "Challenge" segment of
this unit's "Nation" Page. You can tell students simply that
the difference between the two forms of measurement relates to the way
data is selected and processed. Or you may want them to research the basis
for — and focus of — each type of measurement. Wikipedia's
entry for "Gross
domestic product" includes a useful, brief explanation of each
term. (Scroll to "Measurement," then to "Cross-border comparison,"
where you'll find that the currency exchange GDP "can offer
better indications of a country's international purchasing power,"
while the purchasing power GDP "accounts for the relative
… domestic purchasing power of the average … consumer within
an economy.") For a more technical explanation, see the two definitions
for "gdp …" in the "Notes and Definitions"
section of the Factbook.
statistics: per-capita GDP. If it's helpful to know how statistics
are measured, it's also important to think about how they can be used.
TIP: As a follow-up exercise to their
research on GDP measurements, refer students to this unit's Data
Page table. Ask them to calculate South Korea's per-capita GDP by
dividing the country's population total into the GDP total. (The footnote
will remind them that this is a purchasing power GDP.) Students
should arrive at a per-capita figure slightly above $24,150. Then inform
them that, by currency exchange measurements, South Korea's GDP
for the same period was $897.4 billion. Have students re-calculate the
nation's per-capita GDP, using the new GDP total. The result this time
will be slightly over $18,370. As students compare both per-capita figures,
ask them to speculate: Which calculation might have more interest for
each of these groups? For bankers, for example? Or workers within South
Korea? Retailers? Government officials? International traders?
1d. New entrepreneurs.
The "Ponder This" segment of the "Nation" Page indicates
that "young South Koreans are starting to form businesses…."
They are, indeed. But the idea of young start-up entrepreneurs still seems
unusual to some in their society. TIP:
Refer students to Evan Ramstad's January 2007 report on his interview
of South Korea's Brian Ko ("In the Land of Conglomerates, Brian
Ko Goes His Own Way") at The Wall Street Executive Career Site. Ask
students who've read the interview to report to your class on Mr. Ko's
comments about "starting the company" he founded, "finding
money" (his "biggest challenge"), and especially his ideas
concerning "several ways to be a corporate leader." Test student
reactions: What does this interview seem to reveal about the strength
of tradition and the influence of change among South Koreans today?
1e. World Heritage.
By the time students reach the end of the "Nation" Page, they
should have identified one of this unit's key underlying themes —
that, even as they move into a new era, South Koreans remain committed
to their cultural heritage. TIP: Seven
well-preserved South Korean landmarks have been declared World Heritage
Sites by UNESCO. Have students research and write a short report on three
of these landmarks, starting with data and photographs at the UNESCO
Web Site. (On reaching the home page, look for and select "The List"
— near the top of the page. When the next page opens, scroll to
the entry for the "Republic of Korea.") Urge students to look
especially for the cultural value that each of these sites seems to capture
Text Page No. 2: "Within Its Region." The earliest prehistoric
arrivals on the Korean Peninsula are introduced. Plus: the founding of
Gojoseon — "Land of the Morning Sun"; the ongoing need
to resist invasions; unification by the 7th century CE; cultural achievements
under King Sejong; external pressures on 19th-century Korea to open its
ports to foreign traders; annexation by Japan; the post-WWII division
of the peninsula into "two Koreas — followed by the Korean
Conflict; recent "six-party" talks and hopes for reconciliation.
2a. Strategic peninsula.
This unit's Map Page is essential to students'
understanding of the geopolitical pressures on Koreans from their earliest
history to modern times. TIP: One way to encourage
attention to the map would be to tell students to keep looking at it with
the term "strategic" in mind, as they read the "Region" Page. Then ask
them to analyze: Why are peninsulas often considered to be strategic locations?
For people living on the Korean Peninsula, was there an era (were there
eras) when their location gave them a strategic advantage over others
or when it put them at a disadvantage? Factors to take into account:
methods of attack and defense before and after ocean-going fleets were
developed, the regional goals of South Korea's neighbors, and the economic
advantages that South Korea's position affords it in the 21st century.
(It might be a good idea to use a globe at this point, too.)
2b. Arts and technology.
More than a millennium ago, Koreans committed themselves to a process
of unification that unfolded slowly over the course of centuries. The
students' "Region" page mentions the kingdom of Silla, which
conquered, and then united with, two other regional kingdoms (Baekje and
Goguryeo) to form a unique state covering most of the Korean Peninsula.
Students interested in reading about this march toward unity (and the
many threats that continued to challenge Korea, in succeeding centuries)
will find excellent material on South Korea's official Web Site, Korea.net.
(Follow the navigation bar on the left-hand side of the page that opens.)
For much of this period, Koreans were also leaders in both the arts and
technology. Among their achievements was hanji — a fine,
long-lasting paper made from the bark of mulberry trees. In later centuries,
they developed a soft-glazed porcelain that is still prized by collectors.
And you might want to tell students about this achievement, too: Of the
many invasions that Korea has endured, at least one led to advanced technology!
TIP: Urge students to research Korean
admiral Yi Sun Shin (also spelled Yi Sunsin), who — in the 1590s
— developed iron-reinforced warships ("turtle ships"),
to defeat a Japanese invasion. Admiral Yi is a great naval hero, and students
will find many accounts of him and his ventures on the Internet. Perhaps
they could deliver their reports as though they were news correspondents,
reporting in "real time" from one of Yi's turtle ships during
a naval battle!
2c. "Secret" agreements.
The tragic post-World War II division of Korea resulted from "secret"
agreements made at Western summits in Cairo, Yalta, and Potsdam. TIP:
Urge students to research those agreements, then have them debate such
questions as: Where Korea was concerned, did the agreements foster peace,
or problems? Could/Should this kind of decision-making process by "big"
powers be tolerated in today's world? What role in Korea did those agreements
lead the USA to play, after 1948?
2d. Reconciliation —
step by step? The "Ponder This" segment of the "Region"
Page includes a brief summary of efforts by six nations in February 2007
to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula. A series of "six-party"
talks brought together representatives of China, Japan, Russia, the USA,
and the "two Koreas." As reported from South Korea, the outcome
of their meetings was an agreement on several
points, including: (a) the step-by-step denuclearization of North
Korea, (b) the beginning of bilateral talks between that nation and the
USA ("aimed at resolving … bilateral issues and moving towards
full diplomatic relations"), and (c) cooperation by the other five
parties in providing "economic, energy, and humanitarian assistance"
to the North. The talks were covered heavily by the world press. And there's
a wealth of material on that topic at the official Korea.net
Web Site. (Select the "Six Party Talks" link on the home page.)
TIP: What might be less apparent to
onlookers is the impressive record of efforts by the Republic of Korea
to establish links of peace and cooperation with the North — especially
after 2000, when the South's (then) president, Kim Dae-jung, launched
his "Sunshine Policy." As a lesson in the kinds of efforts that
peacemaking can involve, you might suggest that students break into teams
for a Google search — or a
search at the Korea.net Web Site —
to look for information on the following topics: (a) the Gaeseong (or
Kaesong) Industrial Complex in North Korea, where South Korean entrepreneurs
now employ 11,000 North Koreans; (b) the tourist site at Mt. Geumgang
(or Kumgangsang) — located in the North, funded from the South;
(c) South Korean aid to the North; (d) inter-Korean trade. Trade between
the two Koreas was legalized in the late 1980s, and South Korea is now
the North's second-largest trading partner. Suggest that students keep
a file of their notes dealing with these and other forms of North-South
relations — diplomatic, economic, cultural, etc. At an appropriate
wrap-up time, ask students to write an editorial on what they conclude
are the best approaches for achieving permanent peace on the Korean peninsula.
Text Page No. 3: "In Today's World." South Korea's new campaign
to promote the consumer robotics industry is used to introduce students
to the nation's goals for the 21st-century. Plus: other growth industries
on the drawing board; South Korea's high-tech achievements; the role of
the government in guiding economic growth and in helping people prepare
for change; the nation's trade partners; its foreign policy concerns.
3a. Robots! Are students
fascinated by the idea of robots in their future? (Perhaps robots are
in their homes already, sweeping across floors!) As the introductory paragraphs
of this unit's "World" Page indicate, the production of consumer
robots is certainly on the minds of South Koreans. (So are nine other
industries of the future — as the April 2007 issue of Korea
Policy Review informs us, in an article titled "Government Launches
Project for Next-generation Growth Engines." See "More Resources,"
below, for steps to retrieve this article.) TIP:
You may want to team up with a teacher from the Science Department, to
help students understand the basic science and technology driving the
robotics industry. In that case, the transcript
of an in-depth NOVA interview with robot specialist Hans Moravec would
be an interesting — though lengthy — reading assignment for
your class. A great follow-up to reading it might be a debate on one of
Moravec's closing remarks: "I think there will come a time when
robots will understand us better than we understand ourselves —
or understand each other." TIP:
Or, you may want students to explore the personal, social, and economic
impact of having robots at our elbows (doing multiple tasks at home and
in the workplace, providing information and other services to individuals
in public places, etc.). In that case, urge them to research the topic
— after which a group of volunteers might write (and stage) a play
involving robots in our future!
3b. Government's role.
By this point in their use of the unit's materials, students will have
come across a number of references to the role that South Korea's government
plays in the country's economy. Now, in the "Preparing" segment
of the "Region" Page, they will find examples of how that government
(under its "Vision 2030" program), directly influences the lives
of its citizens: providing free Internet service for students, online
education for adults, retraining for retirees, etc. TIP:
Tell students that "Vision 2030" is, in part, a result of South
Korea's concern about several converging trends: the nation's birth rate
is declining, the ratio of seniors to the rest of the population is increasing,
and automation continues to displace employees. In addition, jobs are
shifting to countries with lower-paid workers. Discuss the connection
between these trends and South Korea's "Vision 2030" policies.
Then ask students to write an editorial on the role they think government
should play in helping its citizens adjust to big new social and/or economic
3c. Global reach.
In recent years, South Korea's role in regional and world affairs has
been steadily expanding. In 2003, it was one of the first nations to send
(non-combat) troops to Iraq, to aid in that country's post-war reconstruction.
And it has played an increasingly important (and delicate) diplomatic
role in efforts to build peace in Northeast Asia — especially on
the Korean Peninsula itself. TIP: Encourage
students who visit Google News regularly
to be on the lookout for similar accounts of one country's diplomatic
and material efforts to benefit another country — or to help resolve
a crisis in which that country may be involved. From time to time, have
the "newswatchers" report on their findings, using a world map
to point out the locations of such countries. Ask students: What factors
might explain this trend in today's world?
3d. Overview. To
be sure students understand why South Korea's current success is so impressive
to the rest of the world, you might want to help them review the chronology
of major Korean-related events over the past century: TIP:
Have students research and develop a timeline for major events in the
recent history of Korea/South Korea, starting with the peninsula's annexation
by Japan in 1910 and moving up through the Korean War to the early 21st
century. (They'll find material for this timeline on all three student
pages.) Then discuss: How might each major event have shaped South Korea's
post-war decision to concentrate so intensely on economic development?
What do you think accounts for South Korea's change from a policy of isolation
(when it was a kingdom) to a policy of international and world involvement?
Realizing that the recent Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
will exert a mounting pressure on social studies teachers to emphasize
reading skills with secondary school students, LE offers the following
tips for use with this unit (see also LE's Reading
Skills in the Social Studies):
* Identifying (and using) context
clues. Helping students to expand their social studies vocabulary
can take a great deal of time and energy. So it's a good idea to pass
along some "self-help" tips. Here are two: Students working
online might get in the habit of consulting The
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. And
those working without handy references might want to practice
looking for context clues to the meaning of unfamiliar terms and phrases.
Here, for example, are four terms from this unit's Student
Text Page No. 1: "As a Nation" (possible answers
1. annexation. If students
have not already learned that this term applies to the takeover of
one political entity by another (in this case, Korea's annexation
by Japan), they can at least gather that it involved the Koreans'
loss of independence. Context clue: the follow-up phrasing "Koreans
… had expected to regain independence after Japan's defeat."
2. hanbok. This Korean term refers to traditional
Korean attire (one that has appropriate versions for men and women).
Context clue to the general meaning: the set of comparisons within
which the term occurs: "past and present," "just as
comfortable in jeans and tees as in hanboks"
3. innovation. Obviously, this is an
expression that could be applied to people in any field of endeavor.
Here, it refers to the discovery and introduction of a new way of
doing business. Context clue: the earlier reference to "recent
decades," when "their lives were shaped mostly by the customs
of earlier generations" and "at work promotions were rewards
for … company loyalty" stand in contrast to the sentence
in which the terms "business" and "innovation"
occur: "South Koreans are starting to form businesses where innovation
4. river. Here, we have a truly familiar term
being used as a metaphor. While poetry is always subject to interpretation,
students should be able to see the poet's use of the river as a symbol
— possibly for "humanity," or for Korea itself. Context
clue: The near-personification of the river as being "imprisoned"
by the past," "living today," etc.
* Sequencing related events.
The "Comeback" segment of the "Nation" Page provides
an excellent example of sequenced events that are closely
related (though not necessarily part of a cause-effect relationship).
Possible approaches: (a) If you work with students who have reading
difficulties, give them a scrambled-order list, and ask them to place
the items in correct sequence. (b) With more advanced readers, you
might ask them to develop the list on their own, under the title "Stages
in the Growth of South Korea's Economy: 1950-Present." Here are
the "Comeback" stages, in abbreviated form and in
the sequence identified on the "Nation" Page:
* financial support by the ROK for
start-up light industry
* growth of light industries (food processing, appliances)
* concentration on producing goods for export
* introduction of heavy industries, such as machinery, cars, chemicals,
* rapid multiplication of exports
* achievement of economic "miracle"
For insights into South Korea's culture, economy, world goals, and relations
with North Korea, you could not do better than visit the new Korea.net
Web Site sponsored by the Korean Overseas Information Service. Among the
Site's many features, you'll find Korea Policy Review, an excellent
periodical with a wealth of material on South Korea's current goals (both
domestic and foreign-policy). To access this periodical, select the following
links in sequence — starting with the first two at the top of the
Site's home page: "Multimedia Center," "Magazines,"
then "Korea Policy Review," which you can access in
several ways. It's worth your attention. See the April 2007 issue, for
example, for an in-depth article on "The Six-Party Talks and a New
Beginning on the Korean Peninsula."
Finally, LE editors also recommend the following
"Asian Leaders Sign Energy Pact at Landmark
Summit." Bill Tarrant. The Washington Post. January 15,
2007. ASEAN leaders, together with the heads of China, Japan, South Korea,
India, Australia, and New Zealand hold a major summit.
Note: South Korea." U.S. Department of State. January 2007.
Ki-moon Appointed As Next U.N. Secretary-General." International
Herald Tribune. October 13, 2006.
"English Camps Reflect S[outh] Korean
Ambitions." Anthony Faiola. The Washington Post. November
18, 2004. Some South Koreans spend up to a month in immersion compounds
("camps"), to learn English.
Text of Initial Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement."
ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade. February 13, 2007. Outcome
of six-party talks.
Moravec." NOVA interviews a Principal Research Scientist at the
Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute. October 1997. An expert
explains four generations of robots!
"In a Wired South Korea, Robots Will
Feel Right At Home." Norimitsu Onishi. The New York Times.
April 2, 2006.
Korea and East Asia. Kenneth B.
Lee. Westport, CT: Praeger. 1997
South." CIA World Factbook. March 15, 2007.
City Sense." OECD Observer. May 2006. A reference to
Seoul's large metropolitan region.
His Ancestor's Wings, a Korean Soars to the U.N.". Martin Fackler.
The New York Times. December 22, 2006. A unique glimpse of both
the "traditional" and the "modern" within a South
Korean village, at the moment when Ban Ki-moon is chosen to be the UN's
Remarks … at the Special Conference of the International Federation
of Journalists" Roh Moo-hyun. March 12, 2007. South Korea's president
summarizes the various ways in which his country has reached out to the
North in recent years.
Lonely Planet. Current.
Korea, U.S. Seal Last-minute Trade Deal." Kelly Olsen, Associated
Press. USA Today. April 2, 2007.
is ITER?" Long-term nuclear fusion project linking China, the
EU, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the USA. In Latin, "iter"
means "the way.”
Looking for a wider range of general resources?
Check our Teachers' Room Page!
South Korea Student
Text Page No. 1 | South Korea Student
Text Page No. 2 | South Korea Student
Text Page No. 3 | South Korea Map Page
| South Korea Data Page
Would you like
to see other pages in this study unit? Or visit LE's Home
Learning Enrichment, Inc.
Content last updated: April 2007. Page last reviewed: April 2007.