Course Content
Lesson 1: The Korean Diaspora and Korean Americans
Students are introduced to Korean Diaspora and Korean American immigration patterns and experiences. They compare experiences of Korean Americans in the first and second waves of immigrants and consider how these experiences have evolved over the the 20th century. They analyze oral histories and complete a web-based short research project on locations of Koreans and Korean Americans.
Lesson 2: The First Koreatown and the Legacy of Dosan Ahn Chang Ho
Students explore the life of Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, his immigration to the United States, and his life as an activist and community builder. They examine how the first Koreatown was established in Riverside, California, and compare the experiences of Korean, Mexican, and women citrus pickers and packers. Finally, they identify Dosan's contributions to the United States and Korea.
Lesson 3: ​Immigrant Experiences ​of Korean Americans: The Sammy Lee Story
Students are introduced to the experiences of Korean American immigrants through Sammy Lee’s life story. They reflect upon and critically analyze the responses of Sammy Lee and his family to the racism and discrimination they faced as immigrants, consider ways the immigration laws have changed over the 20th century, and identify ways to advocate for Korean American immigrants.
Lesson 4: The Korean Independence Movement and Korean American Identity in the U.S.
Students situate President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points Peace Program and 1919 speech to congress in the development of the Korean Independence Movement. They engage in a jigsaw activity and examine original documents and news reports from the time period to identify how the Korean Independence Movement shaped and was shaped by the formation of the Korean American identify in the United States. Students compose a letter to President Wilson to encourage the United States to support the Korean Independence Movement.
Lesson 5: Colonel Young Oak Kim: Hero and Humanitarian
Students explore the life of Young Oak Kim, and identify contributions he has made to the United States. They complete a Think/Write/Pair Share/Group Share as they reflect on what it is like to be a Korean American/minority struggling through racial barriers like Young Oak Kim. They explore what kinds of microaggressions Kim encountered and consider how he responded to those actions. Students deepen their understanding of the life of Young Oak Kim as a U.S. citizen, war hero and community activist, and they annotate and discuss an excerpt from the biography, Unsung Hero: The Colonel Young O. Kim Story, by Woo Sung Han. They construct a biopoem and/or an argument essay on his life and contributions to American society.
Lesson 6: Aftermath of the Korean War and Korean Transnational Adoptions
Students explore the ending and aftermath of the Korean War. They learn about the history of the Korean War and what war was like from the perspective of Koreans. Students learn about one of the many groups of displaced civilians whose lives were forever changed by the war, Korean children. They learn how Korean children became central to international aid efforts that led to the advent of transnational adoptions. ​ They analyze an article from 1953 about a Korean transnational adoptee and consider the broader impacts of Korean transnational adoptions on Koreans and Korean-Americans. Finally, students learn about transnational adoptions from the perspective of Deann Borshay Liem, a Korean adoptee.
Lesson 7: Saigu and Social Justice
Students are introduced to 1992 LA Civil Unrest and how it impacted Korean Americans. They reflect upon and critically analyze the responses of various individuals and groups to the unrest, examine issues of justice, and consider the legacy of Saigu for Korean Americans today.
Lesson 8: Korean Americans in the 21st Century
Students explore Korean popular culture in the United States, including K-Pop, Korean and Korean American films, food, and more. They compare and contrast K-POP and American Popular music, conduct short research on an example of Hallyu, analyze films, conduct research for a biographical presentation of a notable Korean American, and compose a memoir essay of their own experiences
Korean American Ethnic Studies
About Lesson


Activity 1.2: Who are Korean Americans? Why did they leave Korea and come to the U.S.?

    Students deepen their understanding of who Korean Americans are and why they came to the U.S. by watching documentaries of Korean American history. They explore how immigrant experiences have evolved since 1900. Song So-Hee performing Arirang. (Source: Wikipedia)       

Activity Questions

  1. Who are Korean Americans?
  2. Why did they leave Korea and come to the U.S.?
  3. What was life like for the Koreans who immigrated to Hawaii?
  4. How were Korean immigrants treated during WW I and WW II?
  5. What was life like for Korean immigrants in the second wave?
  6. How have Korean immigrant experiences evolved since 1903?

Instructional Strategies

  • To support these activities, use the Lesson 1 Presentation. 

  Arirang and First Immigrant Wave

  • Before Viewing
    • Inform students that the first activity in Lesson 1 involved looking at the Korean diaspora and that now we will explore how individual Korean Americans made their decisions to come to the United States. 
    • Explain the meaning of Arirang and ask students why this documentary was named thus.
    • Ask students to list reasons why they think people leave their homes or native countries. Facilitate a brief whole-class discussion of the reasons students listed. 
    • Briefly introduce the selected excerpt from the documentary, Arirang. (The first nine minutes tell of the first wave of immigration to Hawaii, but other segments are also of value.  It is certainly worth taking the time to show the entire video.)


  • During Viewing
    • As students view the video segment, they may write notes on what the people in the video state related to their reasons for coming to the U.S.


  • After Viewing
    • Group students in pairs or trios to discuss the reasons Koreans came to the U.S. Ask student groups to create a list of reasons why Koreans came to the U.S. 
    • Once groups have created their own lists, then invite groups to share with the class the lists they created in their groups. As students share, compile a class list on the board or using technology that can be projected for student view. 
    • Facilitate a discussion (can be whole group or small groups) of the reasons Koreans came to the U.S. Be sure to invite students to consider and share their own family experiences with immigration. What similarities and differences can students identify between their own immigration experience (if any) and that of the Korean experience? For support with making comparisons, you may wish to provide students with a Venn Diagram. ​

  Footsteps of Korean Americans

  • Before Viewing
    • Remind students of the timeframe of the three immigrant waves from Korea. 
    • ​​NOTE: Students should be warned that some images in the video could be disturbing. 


  • ​During Viewing
    • Watch the Footsteps of Korean Americans video, stopping at 26:31. While watching, ask students to take note of important dates/experiences of Korean Americans who shared in the video. 


  • After Viewing
    • Direct students to use the information from the video to create a timeline tracing Korean Americans’ footsteps as identified in the video. This activity may be assigned as homework or used as an extension activity/follow-up lesson.

  Review on Quick Facts

  • Distribute QFS: Korean Americans in the U.S. and Activity Worksheet for QFS: Korean Americans in the U.S. to students.
  • Individually, or in pairs/small groups, have students find answers to the questions in the activity sheet.

  Closing Activity

  • End class by reviewing worksheet responses and discussing the activity questions.


  • Lesson 1 Teachers’ Guide and Lesson 1 Presentation are found on Lesson 1 Overview.
  • Video: Arirang
  • Video: Footsteps of Korean Americans
  • Quick Fact Sheet Korean Americans in the U.S. 
  • Worksheet on Korean Americans in the U.S. 
  • Additional resources are found under Lesson 1 Overview, Activity 1.1, Activity 1.2, Lesson 1 Videos, Lesson 1 Assessments, and Lesson 1 Research Extension.


Handout: QFS: Korean Americans in the U.S. (PDF)
Worksheet: Korean Americans in the U.S. (PDF)

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