Korean War Lesson Plan

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Educate your students about the Korean War with this lesson plan. Students will listen to a video lesson, take a related follow-up quiz, and participate in activities that will reinforce main concepts.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe the importance of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the 38th parallel
  • Discuss the countries and leaders involved in the Korean War
  • Name two of the crucial battles of the Korean War
  • Summarize the events that led to the Korean War


1.0-1.5 Hours


  • Access to the Internet
  • Globe
  • Hard copies of the lesson The Korean War: Causes, Effects and the United Nations along with the accompanying lesson quiz
  • Image of Douglas MacArthur
  • Image of Harry Truman
  • Image of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
  • Maps of Korea and surrounding countries including Japan, Russia, and China, one per student
  • Paper
  • Preprinted worksheets of the ten events and dates, in mixed order, one per student
  • Writing Utensils

Key Vocabulary

  • 38th parallel
  • Battle of Inchon
  • Battle of Pusan Perimeter
  • Cairo Conference
  • Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
  • General Douglas MacArthur
  • Japanese Empire
  • Korean Armistice Agreement
  • Korean Peninsula
  • North Korea
  • President Harry Truman
  • Resolution 83
  • South Korea

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).


  • Inform your students they will be studying the Korean War.
  • Hold up the globe and point to Korea. Show the students where it is in relation to the United States.
  • Display image of General Douglas MacArthur
  • Display image of President Harry Truman
  • Display image of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
  • Review vocabulary terms
  • Start the video The Korean War: Causes, Effects and the United Nations and pause at 2:28.
    • Who ruled the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945?
    • Who met at the Cairo Conference? When did it take place?
    • What did the leaders discuss?
    • What did the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) or 38th parallel mark?
    • Who controlled the north and who controlled the south?
    • Had the U.S. and Russia been allies in World War II?
  • Now, restart the video and pause at 6:52.
    • Who attacked first to start the Korean War, the north or the south?
    • What day was the attack?
    • How long after the end of World War II was it?
    • How many days did it take for Seoul to fall?
    • What did Resolution 83 entail?
    • Why was the Battle of Pusan Perimeter so crucial?
    • Why was the Battle of Inchon so crucial?
    • Who led the Battle of Inchon?
    • What country came to the aid of the North Koreans?
    • Who fired MacArthur? Why? What did most Americans think?
    • When was the Korean Armistice signed? What was the result?
  • Finally, resume the video and watch the 'Lesson Summary.'
  • Review the entire lesson with students and answer relevant questions.
  • Have students take the lesson quiz to demonstrate understanding.

Activity One

  • Have your students work in small groups of 4-6 and match the following events of the Korean War with the corresponding dates.
  • Pass out the preprinted worksheets with events and dates in mixed order.

Event Date
Resolution 83 was passed1910
Japan occupied the Korean Peninsula June 25th,1950
World War II ended November 1943
Korean War began June 28th, 1950
The Cairo Conference was held September 1950
The Battle of Pusan Perimeter1945
The Battle of Inchon August-September 1950
Truman fired MacArthur June 27th, 1950
The Korean Armistice Agreement was signed April 11th, 1951
Seoul fell July 27th, 1953

Activity Two

  • Divide the class into two large groups.
  • Now, have a debate. Group one will be the General Douglas MacArthur team. Group two will be the President Harry Truman team.
  • Tell the students they don't have to necessarily agree with their position, but for the purposes of the debate, they should argue for their candidate.
    • Was Truman right to fire MacArthur? Why or why not?
    • What had MacArthur done previously in World War II?
    • Should America and the United Nations have listened to MacArthur and driven into North Korea and China after the decisive win at Inchon?
    • Would America and the United Nations have won or lost the war if they had tried this plan?
    • How long has the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) been at a stalemate? Is this good or bad for the world?
    • Will a Korean War ever start up again as some military experts believe?
    • Could we negotiate and use diplomacy and peaceful means to end this standoff?
    • Can you devise a better military plan than MacArthur's aggressive approach or Truman's cautious approach that would have won the war and/or brought peace?
    • Are there any other questions or comments?

Activity Three

  • Hand out the preprinted maps of the Korean Peninsula that show North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia.
  • Allow the students to look at the maps for three minutes as individuals.
    • Do you see why Korea is called a peninsula? (water on three sides.)
    • What body of water separates Korea and Japan? (Sea of Japan)
    • What body of water separates Korea and China? (Yellow Sea)
    • What body of water is to the south of Korea? (East China Sea)
    • Do you see how close Alaska is to Russia?
    • What ocean separates the west coast of America from Asia? (Pacific)
    • What country divides Russia and China? (Mongolia)
    • What problems did the United States face in fighting so far away? (answers include they had to mobilize the Navy, they couldn't travel by land until they crossed the ocean, they had to refuel planes for long flights.)
    • Do you see how Korea is surrounded by Japan, Russia, and China? How was this a problem for the troops of the United States and the United Nations? (Answers include those countries could more easily bring in troops or supplies.)


  • Sadly, in wars, many innocent civilians perish in addition to the soldiers who are killed. Write a one-page paper detailing whether more civilians or soldiers died in the Korean War, and what experts believe are the total number of deaths for each.
  • Write a two-page paper comparing and contrasting the tragic number of civilians and soldiers killed in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

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