Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Japan, the United States, and North Korea: A Media Literacy Approach to Understanding the Current Nuclear Crisis

Japan, the United States, and North Korea: A Media Literacy Approach to Understanding the Current Nuclear Crisis

NYS Social Studies Framework
10.8 TENSIONS BETWEEN TRADITIONAL CULTURES AND MODERNIZATION: Tensions exist between traditional cultures and agents of modernization. Reactions for and against modernization depend on perspective and context. (Standards: 2, 3, 4, 5; Themes: ID, TCC, SOC, GOV, CIV, TECH)

Technological changes have resulted in a more interconnected world, affecting economic and political relations and in some cases leading to conflict and in others to efforts to cooperate. Globalization and population pressures have led to strains on the environment.
(Standards: 2, 3, 4, 5; Themes: MOV, TCC, GEO, GOV, ECO, TECH, EXCH)
10.9d Globalization has created new possibilities for international cooperation and for international conflict.

National Association for Media Literacy Education and Project Look Sharp Standards:
1. All media messages are “constructed.”
2. Each medium has different characteristics, strengths, and a unique “language” of construction.
3. Media messages are produced for particular purposes.
4. All media messages contain embedded values and points of view.
5. People use their individual skills, beliefs and experiences to construct their own meanings from media messages.
6. Media and media messages can influence beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviors and the democratic process.

1. Critically engage with and deconstruct editorial cartoons
2. Contextualize editorial cartoons using timelines
3. Apply their understanding of the current nuclear crisis and relationship between Japan, North Korea, and the United States

This lesson can occur at any point in a school year as current event lesson. However, it may best fit in at the end of a unit on the Korean War or Modern Globalization.

All materials are available and hyperlinked in the PDF as well.

1. Ask students what they know about relations between North Korea, the U.S. and Japan.

2. Show Powerpoint – including the Map of Japan and Korea and ask students: Based on the geography, what kind of relationship might exist between North Korea and Japan? What makes you think that?

3. Show the next 2 slides depicting current formal diplomatic relations. Discuss the implications.

4. Close read North Korean Nuclearization: A Brief Timeline of Japanese, U.S., and North Korean Affairs. Ask students:
a. What trends do you notice?
b. What stands out to you?
c. How would you summarize North Korea’s relationship with Japan? What about North Korea’s relationship with America? What makes you say that?

5. Introduce the activity – Students will analyze editorial cartoons about the current nuclear crisis using the editorial cartoon analysis worksheet (a cartoon analysis vocabulary sheet is available as well). Note: the cartoons are available in the powerpoint and can be printed.

6. Debrief Discussion – Media Literacy:
a. Do editorial cartoons report the truth? Explain your opinion.
b. Who might benefit from these editorial cartoons and who might be harmed?
c. Should U.S. media carry editorial cartoons from Japanese cartoonists? Why or why not?
d. How might these images look if U.S. cartoonists were creating them for a U.S. audience?
e. How can the perspectives of individual cartoonists influence the views and beliefs of their audience?
f. How do editors affect what the artists produce? How does the audience affect what the cartoonist produce?

Power Point:
Editorial Cartoon Analysis Worksheet:
Editorial Cartoon Vocabulary:

1. Depending on cohort and on how well practiced students are at political cartoon analysis, the teacher can model analysis with one cartoon with the full group.

2. Consider options for differentiation and choice → students can work individually or with partners, the teacher can assign certain cartoons to specific students, or students can even choose which cartoon(s) they analyze.

3. This could be paired down for 8th grade. The teacher could choose one of the cartoons that is more grade-level appropriate and/or simplify the timeline.

Students or groups could present their analysis to the class.

“6 Key Concepts of Media Analysis,” Project Look Sharp of Ithaca College, accessed August 15, 2018 ,

“Core Principles of Media Literacy Education in the United States,” National Association for Media Literacy Education, accessed August 15, 2018,

Kettley, Sebastian. April 17 2017. “North Korea And Japan: A History Of Relationships Between The Two Nations”. Express.Co.Uk. Accessed August 26 2018.

“North Korea Profile – Timeline”. June 13, 2018. BBC News. Accessed August 26 2018.

“Timeline: North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions and the Shift to Diplomacy.” France 24, France 24, 11 June 2018,

Roger Dahl, The Japan Times, from February 27, 2017 – May 5, 2018.

  • Mary Kate Lonergan
  • Fayetteville-Manlius Central Schools
Grade Level
  • Middle School: 8
  • High School: 9, 10, 11, 12
Time Frame
  • 45 minute period or an 82 minute block (or longer)

If you have any questions about this lesson plan, or if you wish to contact the author, please email us at [email protected]