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Understanding the Conflict


To familiarize students with the contributions and sacrifices made by Canadians who served in the Korean War, and to develop an understanding of the causes and outcomes of the Korean War.

Learning Outcomes

Students will be expected to

  • develop an understanding of the contributions and sacrifices of the Canadians who served in the Korean War;
  • develop an understanding of the causes and outcomes of the Korean War;
  • use maps and an online interactive map to interpret some of the major events of the war, and the movement of United Nations troops throughout the conflict.

Target Audience

This activity is aimed at youth aged 12 to 18 years.

Required Class Resources

Sequence of Activities and Anticipated Time Frame

Step 1: Land of the Morning Calm Background Discussion (3 minutes)

Share the image of Korea with your students. Explain to your students that it is an image of Korea, and that in 1934, an emperor of the Ming Dynasty of China, the Celestial Empire of the East, gave Korea the title of "Chaohsien" meaning morning freshness. The title was well suited to Korea because of its spellbinding natural beauty of picturesque high mountains, clear waters and splendid tranquility, particularly in the morning - which further confirmed the "Land of Morning Calm" title given to Korea.

Explain to your students that, while the country of Korea is indeed picturesque, its political situation has historically always been far from calm.

Step 2: Mapping Korea (15 minutes)

Take a look at the geography of Korea with your students. Either display this map of Korea or distribute a map to each student.

If it’s on display, you could do this activity as a group. If each student has their own copy, they could do this activity individually.

Do some research and mark the following points on the map:

  1. The capital of North Korea.
  2. The capital of South Korea.
  3. Two countries that border North Korea.
  4. The country that lies to the south of South Korea.
  5. The bodies of water surrounding North and South Korea.

Once your students have completed this mapping activity, use the Korean Map Answer Sheet to verify their answers. Then ask the students why are there two Koreas? Why is there a north and a south?

Step 3: Understanding the Korean War (15 minutes)

Has anyone heard of the Korean War? Why was there a Korean War?

Tell your students that you will all watch the short video from the Land of the Morning Calm which visually puts the beginning of the Korean War into context (2.5 minutes).

Next, distribute (or read the PDF on mobile devices), the "Canada Remembers the Korean War" Historical Sheet, and the Question Sheet, and allow each student to read individually and answer the questions (or, ask the questions to the group).

Step 4: A Closer Look at the Stages of the Korean War
(20 minutes)

Explain to your students that you are going to be watching the Land of the Morning Calm map which displays the movement of troops throughout the Korean War.

Following the viewing, discuss what they saw.

Talk about how the hostilities in Korea raged on for more than three years.

What did they notice while watching the map? What did it seem to illustrate about the stages of the Korean War?

  • Could they see that the first year of the Korean War was an incredible seesaw?
  • Seoul (in the middle of the Korean Peninsula) changed hands four times!
  • The remaining two years of the war became a brutal bashing of both sides along a heavily defended battle line, whose location changed only slightly from month to month. It became a "static war," and a "war of trenches."
  • The final cease-fire line showed no significant gain for either side.

Try to imagine for a moment what life must have been like for:

  1. The soldiers. Watch the Land of the Morning Calm "Static Front" video. Discuss how the soldiers must have felt. What are the challenges of fighting a static war?
  2. The civilians in Korea. Imagine the civilians trying to avoid invading armies during the first year of the war when battle lines shifted back and forth through the countryside every few months.

Homes and personal possessions would have been damaged or destroyed by shelling or bombing, crops would have been trampled, livestock would be stolen for food, and civilians would have been harmed by stray gunfire or random violence by individual soldiers.

Step 5: What Was the Outcome of the Korean War?

  • Discuss how the Korean War ended with an armistice – an uneasy truce.
  • Ask your students: What was the outcome? What did we accomplish?
  • Listen and watch Canadian Veterans share their stories and opinions on the Outcome of the Korean War.
  • Discuss as a group. Was Canada’s participation worth it?
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