Cold War Files: All Units: Activities: Understanding The Korean War

Understanding The Korean War


a. identify and use the concepts of chronology, change and complexity as they apply to the Korean War
b. work in groups and teams to examine and analyze primary sources relating to the Korean War
c. complete a writing assignment evaluating the conditions, actions and motivations that lead to the major decisions of the war
d. locate on maps countries that participated in the war, locales of major events of the war, and understand why Korea is a strategic location
e. be able to compare and contrast the different political systems of North and South Korea
f. analyze and evaluate the motivations that lead to the Korean War and the involvement of other countries in the war
g. list the firsts of the Korean War and the impact they have today
h. identify and describe the role of the United Nations in the Korean War
i. list and analyze the roles of key political and military leaders in the war

Resources Needed:

1. "The Korean War" unit text, "Stalin and the Korean War" sub-unit text, and class textbook.
2. Maps
3. Graphic organizers for small group work
4. Primary sources pertaining to the Korean War


1. Ask the students what they know or think about the Korean War. List their responses on the board or use a web to organize the responses.

2. Use maps to locate North and South Korea, the 38th parallel, the bodies of water surrounding the Korean Peninsula. Then have students point out the countries that sent troops to North or South Korea.

3. Go over the background of the Korean War and the major events of the war. Have students read the biographies of important personalities of the Korean War.

Classroom Activities:

1. Have the students discuss the causes of the Korean War, why did they think it happened, why do they think 20 other countries sent troops and medical units to help the South Koreans? Use the Reynolds' poster and the Chronology poster to trace events of the war.

2. Using documents from the website, make packets of Primary Sources to pass out in class. Select one document and show the students the classification markings. Have students form groops and pass out the packets and work sheets. The students should look at the text, the markings, dates etc. when was the document produced, who wrote it, how is it important to the Korean War? Students will then report back to the class about their documents.

3. When the class has a good grasp of the war, the events leading up to the war and the primary sources they can begin to formulate ideas and opinions on some of the decisions made by the military and political leaders. Have them put themselves in the place of the voters in the 1952 election - did they think Truman did a good job or was Eisenhower a better choice. If they were Truman would they have fired General MacArthur? Would they have used nuclear weapons against the North Koreans? The same scenario should be used when discussing the Communist leaders' decisions.

4. President Truman once said that entering the Korean War was the toughest decision he had to make as president. Do the students agree, why do they think that was such a difficult decision for Truman?


1. Have pairs of students work together to review the information presented. They should organize the information and draw conclusions based on the information they gathered and questions selected by the teacher.

2. If time allows they may share their conclusions with the other class members.


1. To what extent did the student work cooperatively with his/her partner?
2. To what extent did the pairs review the information and pull together the outside and primary sources?
3. To what extent did the pairs respond to the questions selected by the teacher?
4. To what extent did the pairs go beyond the basic information and do additional research on their questions?

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