Teaching about the Crisis in North Korea is a not-for-profit educational site made by teachers to help their students understand the conflict, its complexity, and the importance of its peaceful resolution. Organized by the Korean War Legacy Foundation and co-sponsored by the Korea Foundation and 38 North, the goal of the website is to provide engaging, easy-to-use materials for the secondary Social Studies or English Language Arts classroom that empower students with an understanding of the biggest foreign policy question of our time.
The need for this resource became clear at a conference on Korea hosted by the Korean War Legacy Foundation in the Spring of 2017. Teachers were captivated by a presentation from 38 North on the complexity of the situation with North Korea and the development of this resource began soon after. Recognizing that busy educators have little time to read long curriculum guides, Teaching about North Korea materials are readily available for use in class tomorrow. They likewise are vetted by the research staff of the think tank 38 North, allowing educators to feel comfortable that what they are teaching is accurate and trustworthy.
This format was designed by award-winning American educators Joseph Karb and Andrew Beiter. Karb, the Director of the Korean War Legacy Project, was selected as the 2012 National Middle School Social Studies Teacher of the Year. He recently visited South Korea last summer as part of an educational trip sponsored by the Korea Foundation. Beiter is an internationally-known teacher who coauthored the educational materials for “I Am Syria”, the world’s most searched website for teaching materials on the conflict.
“American educators have such a demand for current event topics such as North Korea, but are often discouraged that there is little support to create these lessons in real time,” said Karb. “What we try to do is to provide them great resources that are professionally vetted by experts, allowing students to understand the conflict so that they can shape the debate at thousands of dinner time tables at home around the country.”
“The widespread use of the teaching materials on Syria tells us that Teaching about North Korea will be equally as promising,” said Beiter. “Since 2011, we have received between 3-4,000 hits a month from teachers around the world. What’s exciting about this is that each educator works with over 125 students a year, allowing this important knowledge to affect the lives of thousands. Our goal is also to confront the stereotypes that many Americans have about Asia, and to realize that South Korea is such a vibrant, advanced democracy, trading partner, and ally that the United States has such a strategic interest in supporting.”
The signature, one-day lesson is an exercise that allows the classroom to become the Situation Room of the White House, where the students use the foreign policy options created by 38 North to analyze what is the best, most peaceful course of action. It is followed by other visual materials, writing assignments, and presentation tools that will allow a teacher to feel comfortable empowering their students with the historical knowledge that is so important to understand the conflict.
“When we used this material with our own students, they were so interested in learning more about South Korea, said Karb. “They also saw the gravity of the situation, realizing that it was much more complex that what they had heard or imagined, requiring that the United States understand the region’s past so that its future may be resolved as peacefully as possible.”