Seoul’s Myeongdong District. Source: Photo courtesy of the author.
This module was developed for the Tennessee high schoolworld history and geography standard No. 85—“Analyze the causes and effects of an increased role of South and East Asian countries in the global economy.”
The content of the module can easily be adapted for high school courses everywhere that incorporate content on post-World War II economic and cultural developments in South Korea, and was field-tested in an AP human geography class of ninth- and tenth-graders.
Estimated module length: Three to five fifty-minute class periods
South Korea (the Republic of Korea/ROK) is currently (2018) the seventh-largest export economy and the eleventh-largest economy overall among all the world’s countries. South Korea’s amazing economic success was anything but certain when it was recovering from a brutal war with North Korea in the early 1950s, and its economic success is widely described as a “miracle.”
This module explores how the ROK has moved from a country dependent on foreign aid and low profit exports to a global leader with exports reaching most parts of the world. Along with its economic success, South Korea has in the last two decades benefited from the increasing popularity of its cultural exports: music, movies, television, and most recently beauty products. South Korea is now an economic power and exerts cultural influence not only in Asia, but in Europe, North America, and elsewhere.As South Korea continues to grow in influence around the world, both economically and culturally, it is essential that students understand the impact South Korea’s success has on the rest of the world, including the United States.
Explain and discuss how the economy of South Korea has changed since the late twentieth century and explain how South Korea was able to become the world’s eleventh-largest economy.
Discuss and describe how South Korea’s exports changed from 1962 to 2016 and explain how these exports have impacted the United States.
Define, describe, and explain the Korean Wave, its global impact, and its specific influence in the United States.
Assumptions are that students are already able to locate the Korean peninsula on a map of Asia and understand that two nations now exist on the peninsula. It is also assumed that students understand the difference between the governments of North Korea and South Korea. This module focuses exclusively on South Korea.
Click the following links to download the PowerPoint necessary for this guide along with an appendix guide to all of the PowerPoint slides.
Appendix of PowerPoint Slides
The module is based on four key websites: ZeeMaps, MIT’s The Observatory of Economic Complexity, MIT’s Pantheon Mapping Historical Cultural Production, and Gapminder Tools. See References and Resources at the end of the module for more information on these sites.
First, students examine how South Korea’s exports have changed over time by using The Observatory of Economic Complexity website. The statistics students work with begin in 1962. This activity enables students to learn what the ROK exported nine years after the Korean War (1950–1953) and compare and contrast 1962 exports with subsequent South Korean exports, included in fifteen-year intervals (1980, 1995, 2010, and 2016).
Students then focus upon South Korean exports to the United States by researching three separate dates. The first date, 1963, was selected because in that year, for the first time, South Korea’s leading exports were textiles (a secondary/ manufacturing activity). Previously, lower-valued fishing and seafood exports (primary activity) constituted the leading South Korean export to the U.S. The second date, 1985, is significant because, for the first time, Air Jordan Nike shoes (see the bell work example that follows) were manufactured. In the late 1980s, South Korea’s leading exports we're shifting from textiles to electronics. The final, most current date for which data is available (2016) illustrates how drastically South Korea’s exports have changed since the 1960s and 1980s.
The final student activity in the module is an examination of the Korean Wave and the global impact of popular Korean culture. Students will learn about these topics using MIT’s Pantheon website to research famous Koreans who are now known throughout the world. Students will also watch related videos and complete a reading about the Korean Wave and the global significant interest in popular Korean culture.
This module includes a comprehensive (104 slides) PowerPoint that contains handouts, visual images of the websites, videos, student readings, and answer keys. Any reader who would like to see useful graphics related to this module is encouraged to utilize the PowerPoint. A guide for the PowerPoint is included in Appendix I at the end of this module, and activity instructions are included in the PowerPoint itself.
Estimated time: fifty minutes, excluding the optional/enrichment assignments and videos
Prior to class, give students a short homework assignment asking them to locate five clothing items and identify where they were manufactured. The clothing items can include athletic wear, tennis shoes, and t-shirts. It is permissible to have more than one item that comes from the same country. The expectation is that the majority of the clothing items will be produced in Asian and Central American countries (eg, China, Việt Nam, Thailand, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Mexico).
Optional first assignment
Because many schools provide students with their own digital devices, it might be possible for students to use a ZeeMap to upload their five examples.
If this is the case, teachers can provide students with the URL of the ZeeMap. Students can go to the URL and, following the directions in the PowerPoint, add to the map the name of their five items and where their five items were made/manufactured.
Bell work activity
First, ask students to name their clothing items and where they were made/manufactured. List the countries on a whiteboard or chalkboard, or if instructors have a world map on the wall, they can place a small Post-it Note on each country students identify. Depending on the size of the class, it might be possible to have students provide additional examples.
If instructors had students create the ZeeMap, display the ZeeMap on the screen or television for the class to see. It is also possible to have students bring in their list of five items and add their five items to the ZeeMap during class. It takes approximately ten to fifteen minutes for students to compete this task.
Looking at the list of countries either on the board or map, ask students why their clothing items are being manufactured in these countries. Discuss with students the various costs that go into manufacturing clothing: labor, materials, transportation, and factory/infrastructure. Ask students why most of the countries listed are in Asia and Central America, not in Europe, Africa, or South America. Ask students why few of the clothing items come from Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. These are all Asian countries that either border or are nearby many of the countries the students will list. However, unlike the countries the students are most likely to list, these are some of the wealthiest countries in Asia—as well as in the world.
In the second bell work activity, have students answer the following question:
One of the school’s homecoming dress-up days is 1980s-themed. You decide to wear a pair of Air Jordans. In which country were these shoes made? The five choices are China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, and Việt Nam.