U.S.–South Korean Relations
Grade Level: High School
Includes curriculum unit + CD-ROM
For more than half a century, the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have been close and strong allies, a relationship nurtured under war and the pursuit of common interests. Despite this long and established alliance, U.S.–ROK relations and Korean history are not adequately taught in American high schools. This curriculum unit on U.S.–Korean relations seeks to fill the gap by exposing students to the four core pillars of the alliance: democracy, economic prosperity, security, and socio-cultural interaction. Each pillar supports the U.S.–South Korean relationship in a different and important way.
Lesson One examines South Korea’s maturing democracy, providing students an overview of South Korean democratization and engaging them on the concept of democracy. They also study how the U.S.–ROK relationship affected South Korea’s democratization, and vice versa. Ultimately, students consider how common political and social values serve to strengthen relations between two countries and societies.
Lesson Two introduces students to the economic aspect of the U.S.–ROK relationship and encourages them to recognize how economic interdependence between the two countries has served to draw them closer together. Students examine modern-day trade, such as the recently concluded U.S.–South Korean Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), and also learn about the historical role the United States played in helping South Korea industrialize after the Korean War.
Lesson Three outlines the security concerns that South Korea and the United States have shared since the Korean War and the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty in 1953 to the recent nuclear weapons issue with North Korea. Students study the history of the U.S.–South Korean security alliance and evaluate why both Seoul and Washington have considered the alliance so important and beneficial.
Lesson Four complements the broad country-to-country perspective of the first three lessons and encourages students to consider how the U.S.–South Korean relationship has influenced the individual lives of Koreans and Americans, and vice versa. Students contemplate how the cultural interactions between the two countries have influenced both societies and changed the lives of their people.