Key vocabulary words noted herein will be researched and investigated by our young learners. Non-fictional and fictional children book selections, interactive websites, interviews with local Korean merchants, and writing will serve as springboards to finding this information (see Annotated Bibliography).
Terms to Know
Prior to beginning this study, introduce a world map. Highlight the continents and other geographic landmarks found therein. Have students locate Korea and its surrounding land masses and aquatic borders. Using photo images to visually put the accent on specific regions serves as an engaging topographic accompaniment.
Supplemental Group Research Project. Students should be divided into teams of three to four students. Each team will research two or three topics regarding Korean culture. (These team members should work together throughout the entire implementation of the unit, including our Science component.) Students will generate questions to be answered within each topic (see Attachment D created by my third graders). Members of each respective team will be in charge of finding answers to target questions. They will work collaboratively both in and outside of school to conduct research. Based on their collective findings, students will become "experts" in their topic of study and will subsequently be required to write a report based on their collective findings. They too will be required to create an accompanying poster board display presentation. The display must contain pictures and captions that accurately portray their research findings. Each team will be required to present its report and visual complement before their peers. (The report and supplemental poster board display info must be well researched, well-organized, and well-written, falling in line with New Haven public school district Language Arts curriculum mandates.)
Note that throughout the "We Search" process, the teacher serves only as a facilitator, modeling how to take notes, conduct research using book and on-line resources, and create the final report with supportive displays. So that students can effectively participate in this process, provide 8 to 12 weeks for project implementation and completion; completed projects can be presented during the 13
weeks. Involve parents in the process: provide them with a list of team members' names, E-mail addresses, and telephone numbers, and urge them to establish "research play dates" for their children. Where students/parents have difficulty meeting outside of classroom hours, provide in-school support, incorporating school library and internet research into center time activities. (This planning approach has proven effective for my third graders. I notified my parents of its implementation during Open House at the beginning of the school year. I subsequently followed up with a parent newsletter announcement and phone calls. Collaborative effort on behalf of both students and parents proved challenging, but effective: out of 7 teams constituting 23 students, each team completed their project)!
A Bit About Korea
Based on my recent travel, Korea is a fascinating land filled with high-rise buildings and super-highways, technological advancements, thriving port cities, and trend-setting fashion, interspersed with simplistic countryside living and historic remnants of the past. Despite modernization, the spirit of the people and culture maintains adherence to Confucian values, pride among its people, and a love of nation to be admired. Known as the Land of the Morning Calm, Korea is a peninsula that extends southward from Asia. Although it is one land mass, Korea is divided into two nations: the Democratic People's Republic of Korea or DPRK (North Korea, a communist nation lead by President Kim Jun-Il) and the Republic of Korea or ROK (South Korea, a democratic nation under the leadership of President Lee Myung-Bok). To the west, it is surrounded by the Yellow Sea; the East Sea aligns with its eastern shore, and its southern border is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. 70% of the region is mountainous, particularly on its eastern coast. It has several major rivers: the largest is the Amnokkang River (790 km). Others include the Tuman-gan and the Naktonggang Rivers in the north, and the Hang-gang River which is 514 kilometers in the south. Mt. Paektu is the highest mountain on the peninsula; Mt. Halla, another of its tallest peaks, constitutes its neighboring island and major tourist attraction, Jeju-do (pronounced "Cheju-do").
As of July 2009, approximately 49 million people inhabit Korea, with 81% of the population living in urban areas. A homogeneous society, Koreans take pride in their country and adhere to strong nationalist ideals.
Seoul is one of the country's major cities. As of 2009, over 10 million people are reported to reside there. Pusan, Taegu, Inchon, Kwangju, and Taejon are among other major cities in the region. Religious freedom is provided for in the country's constitution. Major religions within Korea include Buddhism (approximately 23%), Protestant Christianity (approximately 20%), Catholicism (approximately 7%); coupled with Confucianism, Shamanistic practices (approximately 1%), and non-religious affiliations (approximately 49%). Religious practitioners with differing views coexist within the society.
The country's climate is similar to that of the United States, for it enjoys four seasons. The weather patterns, however, significantly differ. Spring and autumn are short, with a blend of many days filled with sunshine and occasional crisp, cool days that require one to wear a light jacket. Located in the East Asian monsoon belt, Korea is hot and humid during the summer, with primary rainfall beginning at the end of June. The winters are brutally cold and dry, with occasional snow. Winter weather is at times impish in that severe cold weather is on occasion unexpectedly interspersed with warm weather, spring-like days.
Math & Logical Thinking Extra: Highlight that by plane, on a non-stop flight, it takes 14 hours to travel from New York City to South Korea. Ask students whether they think it would take more or less time travel east, across the Atlantic Ocean or west, across the United States and the Pacific Ocean, to reach this Asian country. (My children were astounded to learn that the latter was the most expedient, time-saving route!) Use a globe to model the flight patterns and distances from both directions.
Since the 1960s, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and integration into the high-tech modern world economy. Computer technology and electronics are in the forefront as evidenced throughout business districts, colleges and universities, and seen in daily life overall. (When I visited the region, it seemed everyone was toting blackberries, computer games, and I-Pods. Observing this first-hand was remarkable, particularly knowing that only four decades ago, the country's economic stance per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia.)
Today, South Korea is a major competitor in the world's economy. In addition to being a world leader in the electronics industry (e.g., Samsung), major industries in South Korea include textiles, petro-chemicals, steel, automobiles (like (Hyundai, manufacturer of the popular Genesis sedan), and shipbuilding. Agriculturally, the country's major products are rice, barley, and wheat.
Education is a top-priority item throughout Korea. It appears everyone from elementary school to collegiate levels takes pride in attending school. The country's educational system is divided into three levels: primary school (attended for six years), middle school (three years), and high school (three years). Primary school is mandatory for children ages 6 through 11. Students strive to give their best at all levels and are immersed in eight core courses that generally include Korean Language, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Ethics, Music, Fine Arts, and Physical Education. Students in middle school are required to take additional subjects; English, technical, and/or vocational topics are taken as electives. By high school, students are prepared to choose between general education and vocational choices. (A typical middle-school day runs from 7:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m., to as late as 11:00 p.m. with the inclusion of electives coupled with private tutoring. There is no doubt as to why the country boasts a literacy rate of approximately 98%!) Entering high school is a rigorous process, and competition to subsequently attend college is intense. Students who attend college and universities do so within four or two years, with graduate courses leading to Ph.D. degrees. (Whether or not they attend college, men must serve in the military for two years; some take off from college to carry out this obligation.)
Many historians believe that the first founding kingdoms on the Korean peninsula began with the Shilla (57 BC) and Paekche (18 BC) in southern Korea and Koguryŏ (37 BC) in the north. According to Korean historians, The Shilla and Paekche kingdoms were the most prosperous because of their fertile farmland and surrounding waterways. The Shilla kingdom was known for hemp and hemp cloth production, textile manufacturing, and rice and millet production. The Koguryŏ kingdom was known for its grain production and salt and fish export. These two kingdoms primarily traded goods with China. The Paekche kingdom, which traded primarily with Japan, was known for its gold, iron, and other manufactured goods. These territories combined were known as the Three Kingdoms.
The Three Kingdoms' reign was followed by the The Koryŏ monarchy (918 AD-1392 AD), under which Buddhism flourished. Thirty-four kings ruled under the Koryŏ monarchy. This kingdom was followed by the Chosŏn dynasty (1392 AD), ruled by Yi Song-gye (posthumously referred to as King Taejo). Confucianism flourished under King Taejo's rule. King Taejo's kingdom emerged as a strong and stable one. He named his empire the Land of the Morning Calm. Great agricultural advancement took place during this period.
King Sejong was the fourth ruler of the Chosŏn dynasty. He is said to have brought progressive ideas in the areas of government administration, economics, Science, Music, medical science and humanistic studies to his nation. King Sejong embraced the peasant population of his country, understanding literacy was crucial for all people. Aware that his people must have a writing system designed to express the language of everyday speech was deemed hunmin chong-um or "script for the people." Under his leadership, the Korean alphabet, known as hangŭl, was created. King Sejong's leadership and contributions to Korean culture continues to be acknowledged and revered today.
History also reveals that multiple external invasions impacted the country since the beginning of time (for example, the Mongol invasion took place in 1231 and lasted until the late 1380s, impacting the Koryŏ dynasty). In 1910, invasion continued, for the country was overtaken by Japan and forced to become a Japanese colony, thereby ending the Chosŏn Dynasty. With it--as had occurred in the past--came the influence and infusion of the colonizing cultures. Nevertheless, in each instance, the Korean people fought to maintain their own identity.
In this regard, we turn to the 20
century. The desire to overthrow colonial rule was strong among Korean people: on August 15, 1945--after 35 years of colonial rule--Korea regained its independence. Thereafter, conflict broke out within the country; its people were divided. Soviet forces, with whom many of Korea's countrymen agreed, occupied the northern part of the peninsula. Many Koreans were in favor of a democratic society like that of America. Aided by United States military forces, these individuals inhabited the southern portion of the land. On September 9, 1948, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was established in the North with Pyongyang as its capital. On August 15, 1948, the People's Republic of Korea was inaugurated with Seoul as its official capital. Although a cease-fire agreement exists between North and South Korea, no peace treaty has been signed between these two nations. The divisive scar between North and South Korea formed during this period still exists today; the country to date remains divided.
Family Structure Then and Now
Extended family constituted the family structure during early times. Traditionally, all family members worked together, carrying out specific roles and responsibilities. (Large numbers of children were desired, and families lived in the same compounds. Women typically carried out such household responsibilities as caring for the children AND cooking.) Homes were commonly built in single-story structures in L and/or U shapes. The house consisted of a living room, kitchen, and lavatory area. A large house would consist of these and additional quarters for maids and servants, a barn, and areas for guests and their servants. Today, with urbanization on the rise, nuclear versus extended families are becoming the norm. Many families today live in high-rise apartments or private townhouses within major cities.