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Image from the storyFace-Off: United States Foreign Policy With North Korea

Target Grade Levels:
Grades 7-12

Cold War, Imperialism, Communism, Diplomacy

• The Activity
• Relevant National Standards
• Cross-Curricular Activities
• Ties to Literature

The Activity

Note: To prepare for this lesson, you may find it helpful to review the most recent events related to the relationship between the United States and North Korea. See Online NewsHour's news summary of North Korea
or the New York Times' Asia Pacific coverage.

Help students examine the results of U.S. foreign policy with North Korea by dividing the class into six groups and assigning them each a section of Face-Off,
a timeline of conflict between the United States and North Korea. Each group should identify any actions taken by the United States against North Korea and both the short-term and long-term results of those actions. Which actions were the most effective? the least effective? Discuss foreign policy concepts, for example, the Truman Doctrine, isolationism, containment, atomic diplomacy and so on. Show students where North Korea is on a map.
How might North Korea's geographic position have influenced U.S. policy? Moving forward, what should the United States do to ease tensions with North Korea? How should North Korea's nuclear weapons capabilities influence U.S. foreign policy strategies? You may also wish to have students consider the Sunshine Policy of former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung when formulating their recommendations. (Details on this policy can be found in the Negotiations Between North and South section of North Korea-related Links and Resources.)
As a final step, students could synthesize the class recommendations in a letter to the president of the United States.

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Relevant National Standards

These standards are drawn from "Content Knowledge," a compilation of content standards and benchmarks for K-12 curriculum by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning), at

Civics, Standard 22: Understands how the world is organized politically into nation-states, how nation-states interact with one another and issues surrounding U.S. foreign policy

United States History, Standard 27: Understands how the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics

Level III, Benchmark 1
Understands major events in U.S. foreign policy during the early Cold War period
United States History, Standard 30: Understands developments in foreign policy and domestic politics between the Nixon and Clinton presidencies

World History, Standard 42: Understands major global trends from 1900 to the end of World War II

Level III, Benchmark 3
Understands influences on the emergence of movements for national self-rule or sovereignty in Africa and Asia (e.g., world war, depression, nationalist ideology, labor organizations, communism, liberal democratic ideals)
World History, Standard 43: Understands how post-World War II reconstruction occurred, new international power relations took shape and colonial empires broke up

World History, Standard 44: Understands the search for community, stability and peace in an interdependent world

Level III, Benchmark 4
Understands instances of political conflict and terrorism in modern society
Level IV, Benchmark 14
Understands how specific countries have implemented social and cultural changes
World History, Standard 45: Understands major global trends since World War II
Level III, Benchmark 2
Understands the origins and decline of the Cold War and its significance as a 20th-century event

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Cross-Curricular Activities
Consider building on the themes of the above activity by working with colleagues in other disciplines to conduct the following activities.

Write Lyrics for Songs with Social Themes (Music, English)

The Activity

Show students a segment from "North Korea: Suspicious Minds" in which a young girl sings a song that praises North Korea's "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung.

At about 12:50 into the story
Song lyrics (translated): Sun, sun, if there's sun, it's the morning. Sun, sun, if there's sun, the birds fly. The Great Leader's picture is the sun, to whom I am grateful. I can't live without him. I am thankful to him.
Length of clip: 47 seconds
Discuss the message of the song and the purpose of teaching such a song to young children in North Korea. What would the lyrics be in a similar type of song written for children in the United States? Have students, working in teams, write sample lyrics then share them with the class.


Visit the "North Korea: Suspicious Mind" Web resources for a synopsis of the story, related links and facts, and more.

A transcript of the story is also available:

Relevant National Standards

Music, Standard 7: Understands the relationship between music and history and culture

Language Arts, Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

Level IV, Benchmark 4
Understands writing techniques used to influence the reader and accomplish an author's purpose

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Write a Job Description for the Position of "Government Minder" (English)

The Activity

Several journalists reporting for FRONTLINE/World were assigned "minders," or official government representatives, whose job it was to show these reporters specific details about the country while limiting access to unfavorable information. You can read about some journalists' experiences with such government minders in the interviews with reporters Nguyen Qui Duc in Vietnam,
Ben Anderson in North Korea
and Sam Kiley in Iraq.
Ask students to write a job description for the position of government minder based on what they learn from the reporters. Be sure students include the background and qualifications that are required and a summary of the job's responsibilities. Then discuss how things would be different if the position of minder disappeared.


The full stories reported by Nguyen Qui Duc, Ben Anderson, and Sam Kiley are all available on the Web on the streaming video page:

Transcripts of each story are also available:

"Vietnam: Looking for Home"
"North Korea: Suspicious Minds"
"Iraq: Truth and Lies in Baghdad"

Visit the Web resources for each story for related links, facts, and features:

"Vietnam: Looking for Home"
"North Korea: Suspicious Minds"
"Iraq Truth and Lies in Baghdad"

Relevant National Standards

Language Arts, Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

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