Teacher's Guide: Asia Rising

Following devastating wars, Japan and Korea slowly begin to reconstruct their economies. By keeping tight control of economic growth and tailoring that growth to cultural values, both governments orchestrate phenomenal rises to economic success.

Unit Themes and Topics:
changing role of government
economic growth
impact of technology

Connections Across History
connection: when: where: program:
economic development plans 1917-1940 Soviet Union "Red Flag"
the Great Leap Forward 1934-1976 China "Great Leap"
postwar economies 1945-1973 United States, Western Europe "Boomtime"

Suezo Uchida
(shipbuilder, Japan)

"Sometimes I worked very late, up to ten or eleven o'clock at night. The worst situation, which happened quite often, was that we worked so late that we had to stay overnight at the shipyard instead of going home...Thinking back now, I worked too much."
photographic portrait of Suezo Uchida


Before Watching

1. What do you know about the economies of Japan and Korea? What do you know about how those economies have changed since World War II?

2. As students watch the program, have them list the policies and strategies that have led to Japan's and Korea's economic success.

After Watching

1. What challenges did Japan face after World War II? What similar and different challenges did Korea face after the Korean War? What strategies led to each country's economic success? What cultural values and trends contributed to that success?

2. What role did the Japanese and South Korean governments play in directing their country's economic development? In what ways did government policies have a positive impact on people's lives? How did government policies have a negative impact?

3. What are examples of the human costs of economic development in Japan and South Korea? Do you think young people in those countries today would be willing to make the same sacrifices their parents and grandparents did? Why or why not? What are other ways that economic growth has changed these countries?


Have students explore the broader context of economic change by researching one aspect of Japan's or Korea's economy during the twentieth century. Topics might include the role of government in the economy, the conflicts between traditional values and economic modernization, the evolution of business philosophies toward workers and work, companies' responsibilities toward their workers, how the country responded to pressures to open its economy to foreign markets, and who benefited from economic growth. After students present their research, discuss the similarities and differences.

Japan's Economic Success

The following lesson focuses on a program segment about the transformation of the Japanese economy between 1951 and 1964. Japanese citizens, workers, and managers describe how the changes affected their lives.

Program Segment
approximately 28 minutes

The beginning of the program

Emperor Hirohito welcomes athletes to the 1964 Olympics.


Before Watching

1. As students watch the program segment, have them write down major aspects of Japanese workers' and consumers' experiences.

After Watching

1. What factors motivated workers to make sacrifices? Do you think it was worth it for them? Why or why not? How do you think low labor costs and the lack of unionization influenced workers' attitudes? How do you think these two factors affected Japan's economic growth?

2. What industries did Japan seek to develop? Why do you think the government focused initially on exports rather than the domestic market? What are the pros and cons of this economic strategy?

3. What arguments did Kinnojo Abe use to sell beds to Japanese villagers? How does this story illustrate some of the cultural consequences of economic growth? What are other ways that Japanese life and culture began to change? How might these changes affect Japan's economic growth in the future?


Have students research Japan's educational system to learn how it contributes to the country's economic growth. Ask students to answer the following questions in their research: In what ways are Japanese students more educated than students in other countries? What qualities do the schools emphasize and not emphasize compared to American schools? How does the educational system contribute to the nation's economic success? Then have students write editorials supporting or opposing reforms that would make American schools more like those in Japan.

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