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 5.1: Who was the First Asian American to Command a U.S. Battalion?


Students explore the life of Young Oak Kim (pictured to the left in high high school graduation photo) 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 Kim. They also have the opportunity to explore racism and microagressions.

Young Oak Kim in 1961. (Source: WIkipedia)

Activity Questions  

  • Who was Young Oak Kim? 
  • Who was the first Asian American to command a U.S. battalion?
  • ​Col. Young Oak Kim’s story demonstrates how racism permeated even the U.S. military. How did Young Oak Kim combat racism? What lessons about racism can we learn from his story?
  • What contributions did Young Oak Kim make to his community and the United States?
  • How do contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islanders, such as Colonel Young Oak Kim, help us understand how ethnic minorities are treated in the United States military and as civilians?
  • Why is it important to learn about diversity, immigrants and racism in the United States?

Instructional Strategies  

  • Use the Lesson 5: Young Oak Kim: Hero and Humanitarian (Activity 5.1) presentation to support this lesson.

  Introductory Activity

  • Ask students to share encounters with racial discrimination or microaggressions. Use the slide, How Have You Encountered Racism or Microaggressions? to be sure students understand the definitions of these terms. ​ An optional additional slide, Tips for Responding to Microaggressions, is provided and may be added to the lesson as appropriate. In addition, see the PDF article, Responding to Microaggressions and Bias, under resources.

  Introduction to Young Oak Kim

  • After the discussion, ask students what they know about Colonel Young Oak Kim. On the board, start a Class Reflective Journal (What We Know; How We Felt; What We Learned).  With the class, fill out the What We Know section and write their responses (for example:  “Korean person; never heard of him; etc.”). This is similar to a KWL activity and will let the teacher know how much (or little) students know about him. 
  • Review the Activity Questions. Inform students they are going to learn about Young Oak Kim and how he responded to racism and microaggressions. 
  • Present basic information about Young Oak Kim and the Korean American community through the following resources. As students view the resources, have them take notes and highlight segments of text about moments where Kim encountered racism or microaggressions.
    • Colonel Young Oak Kim video (4:29 minutes)
    • Web Article: Young Oak Kim (100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Education Center)
    • Young Oak Kim Interactive Map
    • Quick Fact Sheet on Colonel Young Oak Kim


  • Lead a discussion about racism and immigration in the U.S., focusing on the essential questions. Ask students to think about how racism is not just something that happens on the streets, but permeates even the military, as Colonel Young Oak Kim experienced. Ask students to consider how Young Oak Kim overcame racial divides during his life.

  Going Deeper

  • Play the interview of Colonel Young Oak Kim by the Go For Broke Monument in Los Angeles. As students listen, have them consider how Kim developed his Korean American identity and overcame ethnic boundaries and racism. As students watch, they should consider what it is like to be a Korean American/minority struggling through racial barriers like Young Oak Kim did. 

    Closing Activity

  • Close the lesson with a Think Write Pair/Share Group Share OR by completing the remaining sections (How We Felt; What We Learned) of the chart provided in the Introductory Activity.
  • OPTIONAL: Use the additional slide, Tips for Responding to Microaggressions, and the PDF article, Responding to Microaggressions and Bias, to support discussion of how students might respond to microaggressions and bias.



Quick Facts Young Oak Kim (PDF)
YouTube Video: Colonel Young Oak Kim (4:29 minutes)

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