Education About Asia: Online Archives

Teaching Korean Religion

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With more and more Korean-Americans and Korean-Canadians in North American classrooms, more students are asking that Korea be included in surveys of nonWestern civilizations and world history. This request is often answered with a few short paragraphs saying that Korea was traditionally very close culturally and politically to China, was colonized by the Japanese during the first half of the 20th century, and then split into antagonistic Communist and non-Communist halves after liberation in 1945. Such a cursory outline of Korea’s history gives students a broad picture of what happened to the Korean people over the last 2,000 years, but it risks making the Korean people passive objects of history, a people to whom things happen, rather than a people who have shaped their own history. While much of Korean history has been influenced by non-Korean forces, much in Korean history is a result of Koreans taking matters into their own hands.