Korean American History Resources: Middle and High School

While we’re still a few centuries away form American history in our chronological study of history, I thought I would start to compile some resources that cover Korean American history as I come across them. Here are some excellent resources to get you started with the history of Koreans in America. Most of these are for middle schoolers and high schoolers.

I read this book several years ago, and while it is out of print, I plan to include it in our curriculum. From the Land of Morning Calm: The Koreans in America was written by Ronald Takaki and published in 1994. It is recommended for ages 11 and up.

This book, A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America, is recommended for ages 10 and up. It’s an adaption of a book written by Ronald Takaki. While not strictly about Korean Americans, it tells the stories of many people groups who have come to America.

The book, Koreans in America: History, Identity, and Community (Revised First Edition), edited by Grace J. Yoo, is a recent release. Yoo is a professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. It looks at Korean American communities over the past 100 years. I haven’t

This series, Arirang: An Interactive Classroom on the Korean American Experience, was put together by PBS. The web site is interactive and just incredible. You can also purchase the DVDs, and use lesson plans set up to go with the series. The lesson plans are aimed for grades 9-12.

Here is the web site address: http://www.koreanamericanstory.org/arirang/flash/main/korean_american_history.htm

I imagine I’ll use the timeline and parts of the web site when we get to the 1800s and up in third and fourth grades. I’ll hold off on the actual lesson plans until high school.

This one is an online curriculum. It gives the history of Koreans in American, plus talks about important Koreans in US history and details some Korean Americans found in present day media. http://apa.si.edu/Curriculum%20Guide-Final/unit1.htm




Three Kingdoms Living History

As we’ve continued our chronological study of history, we’ve been studying the Three Kingdoms period of Korea’s history. And as I was doing research I was thrilled to find that there are two places in Korea that celebrate these kingdoms.

Just two more places to add to my must-see lists for when we visit next time. I love visiting places that bring history to life!

Here are links for more information about the two I’ve found so far.

Silla Millennium Park


Baekje Cultural Land


Wiman Joseon–194 BC to 108 BC

As the school year winds down, we’re finally getting to a place in history where we’ll get to visit Korea history more often. I’m excited about that! Today we studied Wiman Joseon, which is a period in ancient Korean history between 194 BC and 108 BC. As with all of the ancient history of the peninsula, I’ve had to piece together the story and as usual lately, I’ve found a lot of information at Wikipedia.

In the 2nd century BC, the land we know today as the Korean peninsula was divided into to main states: Gojoseon and Jin. King Jun ruled over Gojoseon.

After the founding of the unified Han Dynasty in China in 206 BC, political upheaval ensued and many people from the former Yan State of China sought refuge in Gojoseon. Wiman, a Yan leader, was one of these refugees; he reportedly led more than 1000 followers to Gojoseon. The story says that he dressed in the style of Gojoseon, even wearing his hair in a topknot.

King Jun allowed Wiman to live in Gojoseon and even granted Wiman’s request to become a commander around 195 BC. He was ordered to fortify the country’s northwestern border. But instead, around 194 BC, Wiman overthrew the throne and claimed to be king of Gojoseon. King Jung fled south into the Jin state.

Wiman located the capital of his Gojoseon at Wanggeom-seong (the archeological evidence of the location is disputed; some say it’s near Pyongyang, while others say it was further north). Since the Han Dynasty in China wasn’t completely stable, the governor of Liaodong appointed Wiman as an outer subject somewhere around 192  or 191 BC. Using its superior military force, Wiman Joseon was able to extend its borders.

But the kingdom wasn’t to last. In 109 BC, Wiman’s grandson King Ugeo reigned over Wiman Joseon and a conflicted broke out when he refused to allow ambassadors from the Jin State (to the south) to use his land to reach China. When the dispute couldn’t be settled through negotiations, Emperor Wu of Han launched a two-front attack on Wiman Joseon–one by sea and one by land. Although the forces took heavy losses, the two forces merged on Wanggeoum and the capital fell in 108 BC.

Han took over the Wiman Joseon lands and established the Four Commanderies of Han in the western part of the former Gojoseon area. This led to several small states emerging in what is known as the Proto-Three Kingdoms Era (which will likely be our next lesson).

Wiman is the first Korean king who was written about in documents from the time period in which he ruled, thus his Korean state is the first one to be verified historically.

For an activity to accompany this lesson, I drew a map of the area noting the significant places, which our son colored, and I had him draw a picture of what he though Wiman looked like.

Sources: In addition to various Wikipedia sites, I gathered information for this post from “The Land of Scholars: Two Thousand Years of Korean Confucianism” by Jaeun Kang. You can preview this book at via Google Books.

I also found information and maps at http://byeongjupark.wordpress.com/article/gojoseon-2zvfgrgyend5c-5/

And since the histories of China and Korea are linked, you might want to check out this changing map that shows the various dynasties in China.



Mumun Pottery Period, 1500-300 BC

I love doing history chronologically. It just makes so much sense. And while our curriculum does a good job of covering the expansion of people onto every continent, ancient Korean history isn’t included (as usual Asia is limited mostly to China and Japan). But one reason we homeschool is to include Korean history and language into our school day. So for Korean lessons I must research and put together my own lessons.

I’ll admit that given the busyness of this year, I haven’t done as much as I wanted to. But we have included a couple of lessons already about ancient Korea, and as we move forward there will be more since written history is more accessible.

So today’s post fits in where we are chronologically in history right now in the 500s BC. It is about the Mumun Pottery period in Korea. It stretched from 1500 BC to 300 BC, with the height of the age being between 850 BC and 550 BC.

This period saw the development of complex societies and an increasing reliance on agriculture. During this early period, each house mostly produced for the family.

Evidence of this period has been found in North Korea and the Liao River Basin in what is now China and includes large stone burial markers, pottery, and evidence of large settlements.

The Early Mumun period spanned from 1500 BC to 850 BC) and saw the shifting of the culture from a hunting and gathering society to one of a more settled nature. As with most ancient cultures, settlements were concentrated in river valleys. Evidence of these have been found along the Geum River in west-central Korea and the Middle Nam River Valley in south-central Korea. One of the largest Early Mumun settlements was called Eoeun (어은) was found in the Middle Nam River Valley.

These settlements were made up of long houses as evidenced in what is modern Cheonan City. The houses were rectangular in shape and had one or more hearths inside, some having as many as six hearths, indicating that multiple generations lived in these homes. The average settlement during this time period was small.

It was during the Early Mumun period that the following traditions began:   building large stone burial markers, the production of reddish pottery, and the use of polished groundstone daggers.

The Middle Mumun period (from 850-550 BC) is when the society began to do more farming. Evidence of this has been discovered at Daepyong,which was a large settlement with hundreds of pit houses and fields located in the Nam River valley near what is now Jinju. Korean archaeologists refer to this period as Songguk-ri (송국리 문화), and they have found evidence of the culture in regions of southeast Korea and as far south of Jeju Island and as far west as Japan.

During this period, smaller houses were the norm. While still pit houses, the houses could be square, circular or oval in shape and did not have interior hearths. Instead there was a central area on the floor equipped with an an oval work pit. It is believed these smaller houses indicate a change from large multiple generation families living together to smaller families of only parents and children living in the same house.

Larger settlements began to emerge during the Middle Muman period. Some had several hundred pit-houses making up the settlement. Also during this period, craft production and redistribution entered the economy. Items that were sold or exchanged include greenstone ornaments, bronze objects, and some kinds of red-burnished pottery.

The Late Mumun period (550-300 BC) saw increased conflict, fortified hilltop settlements, and a concentration of population in the southern coastal area. During this period, Mumun-like settlements appear in northern Japan.

Pit houses continued to be used but during this period they were sometimes surrounded by a large ring ditch, indicating conflict and the need to keep people out. The number of settlements decreased during this time period, possibly because of settlements being reorganized into a smaller number of larger settlements.

The Mumun period ends when iron is appears in the settlements.

All of the information for this post was taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mumun_pottery_period. If you go there, you’ll find photos of pottery and links to sketches of what the housing looked like.

More information on this period in history can be found at: http://www.academia.edu/245929/Craft_Production_and_Social_Change_in_Mumun_Pottery_Period_Korea

Timeline of Korean History

I know that sometimes Wikipedia isn’t completely reliable as an encyclopedia. But I’ve been checking out the Timeline of Korean History they have and it seems to be fairly well documented. So I thought I would share it.

The link is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Korean_history

It begins with the most ancient references or discoveries on the Korean peninsula and goes through 2012. What a great resource when someone (me!) is having to build their own Korean history curriculum for a first grader.

Here are another couple of resources for early Korean history:

Ohio State University has several pages on this site about Korean history. http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/bender4/eall131/EAHReadings/module02/m02korean.html

5,000 Years of Korean Martial Arts: The Heritage of the Hermit Kingdom Warriors by R. Barry Harmon (you can get a sneak peak by following this link to Google Books http://books.google.com/books?id=tZbVl-Cd-SgC&pg=PA17&lpg=PA17&dq=korea+Yemak+and+Puyo&source=bl&ots=vhT7qYZTy3&sig=4hAylZ9MaaTB_ksSjGqeOYUZz2I&hl=en&sa=X&ei=-shAUYDvA8TbyAHA8ICQCQ&ved=0CE4Q6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=korea%20Yemak%20and%20Puyo&f=false

Dangun, 2333 BC

Today we had our second lesson on Korea as part of first grade history, and learned the myth of Dangun.

Dangun is the legendary founder of Korea and is celebrated on National Foundation Day, which is Oct. 3 every year. The legend says that Dangun established Choson (ancient Korea) in 2333 BC, establishing his capital at Pyeongyang.

For today’s lesson I read The Birth of Dangun by Edward B. Adams. We found this book as part of a set of picture books on Korean history at a local Korean bookstore. Check your library. If you can’t find it, there are other options for teaching about Dangun, which I’ve listed below.

In addition to reading the story, I had my son mark the important locations in the story (Baektu Mountain, Ganghwa Island, Mani Mountain, Taedong River, and Pyeongyang, on a map of the Korean peninsula. And while I read he colored a sheet of Dangun’s grave, which I found here: www.handipoints.com/fun-facts/korean-holidays/national-foundation-day.html.

Another idea would be for your child to draw his favorite part of the story. Or use stuffed animals to act out the story after hearing it.

Here are some resources you can use if you can’t find a book on Dangun. The Korea Society has lesson plans that can be used to teach Dangun. You’ll find them under Folktales of the K-12 Resources section of the Publications drop-down menu. There are at least two lessons here on Dangun. “Exploring Korea’s Creation Myth,” the lesson for 6th-8th graders has a scripted play of the myth, which could be read if you don’t have another written version of the story to go over.  You can find the PDF lesson for download a: www.koreasociety.org/102_k-12_teachers/103_by_subject_area/118_folktales/view_category.html

The Office of Language and Cultural Education of the Chicago Public Schools also has lesson plans you could use. Chapter 1, Lesson 6 is the story of Dangun, including the story. You can download these PDFs at www.olce.org/publications.html

Additionally you might want to visit the following two sites. Both have photos of Dangun’s grave, which is located in North Korea.



Ancient Korea

For our first-grade homeschool history, we are using Story of the World, Vol. 1. It’s a chronological world history that highlights stories and people from every continent. I love chronological history; it just makes so much sense to me. And I love this curriculum, as does our son; it has great stories, including some Bible history; coloring sheets, map work, and lots of activities to do. But I’ve made a couple of adjustments. First, I supplemented the first couple of weeks because I wanted to start with Creation. And second, I’m adding Korean history as it falls in the chronology since it is something I think our son ought to know.

So today was our first lesson on Korea. I’m basing my lessons on a timeline for Korea that I found on the Korea Society web site. I printed it out when I found it, and unfortunately can’t find the link now. But I have included some timeline sites below.

Given that it’s hard to date the earliest history, I decided to include the first lesson on Korea after lessons on the settling of ancient Africa. This lesson was very pieced together. I largely used a Korean history book, written in both Korean and English, that we purchased from our Korean school.

As with almost all cultures, people began to populate Korea as they settled down to farm and raise livestock after being hunters and gatherers. Growing rice was introduced into Korea as villages began to be established. The history book says that these early Korean settlers are known as the Yemaek people or the Han people of Korea. The history book has photos of axe heads, mandolin-shaped bronze daggers, and early cave paintings that have been found on the Korean peninsula.

We also talked about “dolmen,” which are stone structures (think a smaller versions of Stonehenge) that marked the graves of military generals in early Korea. Many of these remain mostly in what is now North Korea.

You can see a photo of a dolmen on the right side of this page: www.mygoguryeo.com/history.htm. This dolmen is located on the island of Kanghwa(do, which means island) and is dated to be from the 20th century BC.

Another site with information about the dolmen: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/CU/CU_EN_8_5_5_6.jsp

As a notebook page for this lesson, I had our son draw a picture of a dolmen. Other activities could include building a dolmen out of clay, filling in a map with locations of famous dolmen, crafting a mandolin-shaped dagger out of cardboard, or recreating an ancient Korean cave painting (which we actually studied Korean cave paintings as an addition to a Story of the World lesson on pictographs and petroglyphs).

Here are some general Korean history links that can be great resources: