Korean Defection

Common Core:
WHST 1 Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content
RH 1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources
RH 2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source
RH 3 Evaluate various explanations for actions or events
RH 6 Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue
RH 8 Evaluate an author’s premises, claims and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information
RH 9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event
SL 1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions
SL 3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning and use of evidence and rhetoric

Students will be able to…
– Understand the nature of the current relationship between North Korea and South Korea.
– Describe how people from North Korea defect to South Korea
– Analyze reasons for North Korea defection
– Analyze a variety of documents including defection maps
– Evaluate and use document information to support a viewpoint position of defection
– Analyze why Koreans who defect to South Korea defect back to North Korea

Day 1: Have students review what they have learned about North and South Korea through discussion. Then proceed to show and analyze the pictures from this website to see the stark difference between North Korea and South Korea.

Using the pictures and prior knowledge, ask students to make a list of reasons North Koreans would want to defect to South Korea. Have a discussion on pull factors in South Korea and make a list on the board. Explain the definition of defection and how extremely risky it is for North Koreans to defect to South Korea. They risk not only their safety but their family’s safety. Many times defector’s families risk being sent to the mountainous regions in the north to starve, working in prison/labor camps or in extreme cases execution. Crossing the DMZ for defection is near impossible.

Hyeonseo Lee tell her story of defection here. Pass out reading to students and do a close reading activity with the article. There is also a Ted Talk from Hyeonseo about her defection and the lengths she went to in order to save her family.

Hyeonseo Lee defected from North Korea to South Korea much like the direction path on the map below. Analyze this map with your class and predict why these defection routes are complicated.

Day 2:
Yesterday we learned about defection and reasons why North Koreans defect to South Korea; especially focusing on how North Koreans gain South Korean Citizenship if they choose to defect. We also looked at ways North Koreans defect by analyzing maps.

Though South Korea offers citizenship to North Korean defectors, as well as other incentives, North Koreans still struggle adjusting to life in South Korea.

Bellringer: Imagine you have escaped North Korea and find yourself in South Korea. Make a list of challenges you would face while adjusting to South Korea.

Think about why would people want to try to go back to North Korea? What challenges do they face?

Have student watch the following video clip (near the bottom of the page) on a North Korean who wants to re-defect. The purpose of showing this re-defecting story, is to highlight issues that may arise when adjusting to a new culture or way of life.

Benchmark 2: Viewpoint- Formative

Viewpoint Rubric

Make sure to look over the viewpoint rubric to understand expectations!

Defecting to South Korea is extremely difficult. Thinking back to what we have learned so far….In 4-5 sentences take the viewpoint of a North Korean defecting to South Korea. Explain their viewpoint on either North Korea or South Korea in relation to defection and explain 3 events/situations that influenced that viewpoint. Try writing in voice “I am a North Korean girl/boy…

Students could write to Hyeonseo asking her to describe how she overcame the defection challenges talked about on Day 2- this assessment could be done in place of the viewpoint assessment as well.

Gye, Hugo. “A Tale of Two Countries.” Daily Mail, May 2013. Web.

“Meet the Brave Woman Who Risked Everything to Escape North Korea.”Glamour. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

“My Escape from North Korea.” Hyeonseo Lee:. Ted Talk, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

“The North Korean Defectors Who Want to Return Home – BBC News.”BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015

  • Ana Baker
  • Wauwatosa West High School
Related History Institute
Grade Level
  • High School: 10
Time Frame
  • 2 days

If you have any questions about this lesson plan, or if you wish to contact the author, please email us at history@fpri.org