Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education
SPICE Publications


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Understanding the Korean Peninsula in the 21st Century: Political, Economic, and Security Issues in the Asia/Pacific Region

Full Unit

Published
1997 (179 pages)

For Secondary - Community College students.

Hardcover - $49.95


Understanding the Korean Peninsula in the 21st Century: Political, Economic, and Security Issues in the Asia/Pacific Region is part 2 of a three-part curriculum series. Parts 1 and 3 focus on U.S. and Japanese relations with China and Vietnam, respectively. This curriculum series introduces students to policy options for the United States and Japan in various Asian countries at the turn of the century. Many scholars and business leaders are referring to the 21st century as the "Pacific Age." The rapid economic growth and the accompanying changes unfolding in Asia merit thoughtful attention. The Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly has recently noted that by the year 2000, Asian economies will exceed those of Canada, the United States, and Mexico combined. It also notes the following:

  • Asia controls two-thirds of all consumer electronics manufacturing and nearly half of the world auto production.
  • The GNP of Pacific Rim economies will total an estimated $13 trillion by the year 2000-twice the GNP of a unified Europe.
  • In less than ten years, six of the ten largest cities in the world will be on the Pacific-none will be in Europe.

The future of countries such as the United States and Japan is inextricably tied to that of Asia. It is important that as young people study contemporary world issues they develop a knowledge of Asian countries and the issues affecting relationships between their own country and Asia. Working with primary source materials including policy studies, news articles, political cartoons, textbook excerpts, speeches, and/or interviews, students consider the complex interaction of historic, political, economic, and security issues through specific case studies. The students identify and examine these issues and consider important policy questions.

Each of the three parts of this curriculum series can be taught independently. A strong effort has been made to include perspectives from each of the countries under study. For example, in this curriculum unit, Understanding the Korean Peninsula in the 21st Century: Political, Economic, and Security Issue in the Asia/Pacific Region, perspectives from U.S., Japanese, and Korean scholars, political leaders, business leaders, and journalists are included. Because of this, we feel that this three-part series, taught in its entirety, can add an important element to a high school or community college class in social studies, contemporary world issues, or international relations.

Understanding the Korean Peninsula in the 21st Century: Political, Economic, and Security Issues in the Asia/Pacific Region seeks to introduce students to challenges and opportunities presented by policy options for U.S. and Japanese relations with the Korean Peninsula at the turn of the century. By identifying and examining these options, students will gain an awareness of U.S., Japanese, and Korean perspectives on political, economic, and security issues.

Lesson One of the unit sets the historical context for the study of contemporary Japanese relations with the Korean Peninsula. The lesson focuses on specific episodes prior to and during the Japanese colonization of Korea, 1910-1945.

Lesson Two sets the historical context for the study of contemporary U.S. relations with the Korean Peninsula. The lesson introduces students to the contextual setting of the Korean War, 1950-1953, with a specific focus on the atomic bomb debate. Students participate in an International Peace Conference.

Lesson Three focuses on North and South Korea's contemporary political situation and U.S. and Japanese political relations with these countries. A press conference introduces students to U.S., Japanese, North Korean, and South Korean perspectives.

Lesson Four introduces students to the contemporary economic situations of North and South Korea through a role play in which students decide where to build an automobile assembly plant. Students are provided with data on four countries -North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and the United States-and consider factors that help them make an investment decision on where to build a factory.

Lesson Five introduces students to issues related to U.S. policy toward the Korean Peninsula, with a focus on security. Students, representing the countries of China, South Korea, North Korea, Japan, Russia, and the United States, engage in developing newspapers concerning nuclear arms. In addition, students engage in discussions regarding U.S. troops in Asia, and examine demilitarized zone (DMZ) art activism.

Lesson Six introduces students to issues related to Japanese relations with the Korean Peninsula, with a focus on the Korean experience in Japan. This lesson focuses specifically on civil rights issues of Koreans in Japan and examines how this has had an impact on Japanese relations with North and South Korea.

Finally, Lesson Seven seeks to identify and describe various scenarios leading to Korean reunification. Students in small groups analyze eight scenarios ranging from reunification by war to reunification by mutual consent to reunification by default. Students are also introduced to Japanese and U.S. perspectives on Korean reunification.

Unit Goals

Each of the seven lessons in this curriculum unit has specific learning objectives listed. These objectives have been divided into knowledge, attitude, and skill objectives for students. The following reflect larger goals for the curriculum unit as a whole.

In this curriculum unit, students will:

  • learn to recognize multiple perspectives presented in the media
  • examine how historical legacies continue to affect international relationships and events between the United States, Japan, and North and South Korea
  • develop a basic understanding of North and South Korea's political situation and an appreciation of the multiple U.S. and Japanese perspectives on this situation
  • become familiar with the interdependence that exists between the U.S., Japanese, and South Korean economies
  • become familiar with Kim Il Sung's philosophy of juche
  • learn about security and nuclear issues surrounding U.S. relations with South and North Korea
  • learn about Japanese relations with North and South Korea through an examination of civil rights issues affecting Koreans in Japan
  • become familiar with issues surrounding unification of the Korean Peninsula and implications for the United States and Japan
  • learn to think critically and make informed opinions
  • evaluate different opinions and generate alternative perspectives on an issue
  • learn tools to enhance awareness and communication
  • work effectively in small and large groups
  • organize and express opinions in a debate