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Teaching Resources: The Koreas: 1950-2020

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Teaching Resources: The Koreas: 1950-2020

aerial image of the earth from space.
North and South Korea at night. Source: Wikimedia Commons at

On June 25th 1950, 70 years ago this month, 135,000 North Koreans soldiers invaded South Korea, marking the beginning of the second proxy war in the ideological struggle between the US and the USSR and their respective allies in what was already known as the Cold War. The fighting was halted through a July 27th 1953 armistice, but no treaty ending the war has been signed and the two Korean nations remain ideologically, economically, and politically, deeply divided.

Numerous useful resources for teaching the Koreas are available in the EAA archives but the following sample should be especially helpful to history, political science, and economics instructors as teacher resources and student readings.  The Korean War 101: Causes, Course, and Conclusion of the Conflict  is a well-written contextual essay indispensable for understanding the continuing global impact of a divided Korea, An Unpromising Recovery: South Korea’s Post-Korean War Economic Development: 1953-1961, despite the title, sheds great light on how South Korea, the second poorest economy in Asia who foreign experts shunned as an economic basket case, contained the seeds for its own dramatic rise. North Korea’s 1990’s Famine in Historical Perspective dramatically illustrates the political and economic policies and external factors that starved North Koreans. Korea’s Rough Road to Democracy is an insider’s look at South Korea’s transition from authoritarian dictatorship to representative democracy. Kim Dae-jung’s Role in the Democratization of South Korea is a moving tribute by a friend and, at times, colleague to the man who has been called, “South Korea’s Nelson Mandela.” Leaving North Korea: My Story is a millennial’s first-hand account of her escape and a student reading guaranteed to spark questions and discussions. Facts About Asia: South Korea and Singapore: Economic and Political Freedom was deliberately constructed so instructors and students can quickly learn the current status of economic and political freedom in South Korea when compared to Singapore as well as numerous other nations.

Other Korea Teaching Resources

If students know little or nothing about the Koreas, after making sure they can locate the Koreas on a globe or map, the best five minute and seventeen second investment possible is to have them watch the following video, The Importance of Institutions by Marginal Revolution University on YouTube and those history or economics teachers and students who are interested in an introductory multi-media overview of Korea’s economic and political past, are encouraged to consult Why Do Some Nations Prosper? The Case of North and South Korea from the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

This article was published as part of the June 2020 EAA Digest.