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 5.2: How is Colonel Young Oak Kim an Unsung Hero?

  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.   

Activity Questions

  1. How is Young Oak Kim an unsung hero?
  2. Why is it important to study the stories of individuals like Young Oak Kim?
  3. ​How did Colonel Young Oak Kim make critical contributions to the Japanese American community, as well as to the progress of civil rights of all racial minority communities in the United States?

​Instructional Strategies

  • Use the Lesson 5: Young Oak Kim: Hero and Humanitarian  (Activity 5.2) presentation to support this lesson. 

  Introduction to Book

  • Show the slide of Amadeus Cho, a 19-year-old Korean-American superhero in Marvel comics.  Ask students to share responses to three questions:
    • What is a hero?
    • How is Amadeus Cho a superhero?
    • What real-life heroes can you name?
  • Use the slide, “What is an Unsung Hero?” to review qualities of a hero.
  • Introduce the book Unsung Hero: The Colonel Young Oak Kim Story by reading the excerpt from the back cover.
  • Distribute the Characteristics of a Hero Worksheet and review directions. Ask students to identify one characteristics of Young Oak Kim (based on your reading of the back cover) and help them fill in the table for that characteristic. (EX:  Kim was “BRAVE” because he served in the army.)

  Annotating the Text

  • Provide students with one of the following:
    • Excerpt from “Chapter 28: Candlelight,” Unsung Hero: The Story of Col. Young Oak Kim that includes pages 358-370. 
    • Young Oak Kim Biography, National Museum, U.S. Army. 
  • As students read the excerpt, give them the annotation chart and direct them to annotate as they read.  Have them focus on his contributions to the Korean American community; the Japanese community; and communities of minorities, women, and children.  
  • In addition, as a prewriting activity for their biopoem, have them complete the Characteristics of a Hero worksheet. This could be done during the reading/annotation or afterwards in pairs or small groups.

  Compose BioPoems

  • Provide students with the BioPoem Template. Have students pair up and complete the poem.
  • Have students copy biopoems onto construction or poster paper.  Encourage students to draw, decorate or add photos to their biopoem.
  • Post the poems around the classroom (or online) and conduct a “Gallery Walk.”  Students walk around the room and view all the posters/poems. You might also give them 5-10 little star stickers to mark favorite lines in the poems.


  • Provide students with the following prompt and allow them five minutes to Quick-write their response. Call on student volunteers to share their reflections.
  • Note: This Quick-Writes may be used as a prewriting activity for the Argumentative Essay Summative Assessment.
  • Student Prompt: 
    • What contributions did Colonel Young Oak Kim make to the Korean American community, Japanese American community, and the civil rights of all racial minority communities in the United States?

  ​Closing Activity

  • Use the Quick-Writes sharing to segue into a discussion on the following question as well as other discussion points and Activity Questions.


  • See also Lesson 5 Teachers Guide and Presentation under Activity 5.1.
  • Excerpt from “28: Candlelight,” Unsung Hero: The Colonel Young O. Kim Story, p. 358-370. (PDF)
  • Website: Young Oak Kim Biography, National Museum, U.S. Army
  • Young Oak Kim Biography, National Museum, U.S. Army (PDF Reprint) 
  • Handout:  Annotation Guide 
  • Handout: Characteristics of a Hero 
  • Handout:  BioPoem Template 


Unsung Hero: The Col. Young O. Kim Story  by Edward Chang 

This book isn’t just another tale of a war hero. Kim has a special place not only in American and Korean history but also in world history. Col. Kim served in World War II and the Korean War as a minority officer leading the U.S. Army’s 100th Infantry Battalion. Kim, a Korean American, led the famous Japanese American battalion and helped bridge the racial and cultural gap between the two ethnicities. His dedication, integrity, spirit and loyalty earned him the respect of white officers in a time when racism was prevalent.

A champion of human rights, Kim believed that helping others was the best way to prevent strife and ultimately war. Kim promised himself during World War II. When he retired, Kim helped establish numerous nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles, California. He spent the rest of his retired years serving underprivileged, and minority populations such as orphans, adoptees, women and Asian Americans.  (from Unsung Hero: The Colonel Young Oak Kim Story, back cover)  Source: Amazon


Characteristics of a Hero Worksheet (PDF)
Biopoem Template (PDF)
Annotation Guide (PDF)

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