Lesson Plan: The Korean War

The Beginning of the Korean War

The Beginning of the Korean War


On June 25, 1950, North Korea surprised South Korea by invading and advancing towards the capital city of Seoul. Soon after, President Truman sent U.S. troops to aid the South Korean military, and a U.N. Security Council resolution was pushed through to send additional troops and aid to bolster existing South Korean and U.S. forces. An armistice was signed in July 1953, ending the active fighting of the war and creating a demilitarized zone separating the two countries, although a peace treaty has never been signed. In this lesson, students will learn about the causes, significance, and legacy of the Korean War.



    As a class, view the following video clip and then discuss the questions below.

    Video Clip: The Beginning of the Korean War (6:14)

    • Explain the circumstances in Korea between 1945 and 1950 that led to the Korean War.

    • Why did North Korea want to invade South Korea, beginning in 1948? What dissuaded them from invading at that time? What emboldened them to invade in 1950?

    • How did the Truman administration view the invasion? What steps did the administration take?

    • Explain the decision of the United Nations Security Council. According to Mr. Brazinsky, what was the view and reaction of the U.S. Congress in relation to President Truman and our involvement in Korea?

    Break students into groups and have each group view the following video clips. Students should take notes using the handout provided, and then share their findings with the rest of the class.

    HANDOUT: Korean War Handout (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip: North Korea Invades South Korea (1:39)

    The U.S. Army "Big Picture" episode shows footage of the North Korea invasion and the United Nations response.

    Video Clip: President Truman Korean War Address (0:51)

    President Truman addressed the nation on why the U.S. must intervene in the Korean War.

    Video Clip: The Countries Involved in the Korean War (2:19)

    Christopher Kolakowski described the role of the United Nations and the countries involved in the Korean War.

    Video Clip: Korean War Military Action (3:52)

    Professor Lisa Brady gives an overview of the military strategy and progress during the Korean War.

    Video Clip: Gen. Douglas MacArthur's Role in the Korean War (2:32)

    GWU History Professor Gregg Brazinsky discusses Gen. Douglas MacArthur's role in leading U.S. forces during the Korean War, and his interactions with President Truman and his administration.

    Video Clip: China's Involvement in the Korean War (1:43)

    GWU History Professor Gregg Brazinsky on China's involvement in the Korean War, including their concerns over America's involvement in the war.

    Video Clip: The Armistice and Legacy of the Korean War (2:16)

    Christopher Kolakowski described the armistice to end the fighting of the Korean War and its signficance today.


    After discussing the findings from the video clips with the entire class, have the students take part in a "Take a Stand" activity with the following question.

    "The United States made the correct decision in entering the Korean War"

    Have students line up on a continuum based on their opinion from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree.” Ask several students from different points on the line to share their reasoning and defend their position.


    After completing the "Take a Stand" activity, have students write an essay (or similar culminating activity) that includes the following information. Students should cite specific examples from the videos and class discussion.

    • The causes of the Korean War and the involvement of the United States and United Nations

    • Major military actions and the role of General MacArthur

    • The significance of the armistice then and today

    • The impact of the Korean War in the context of the greater Cold War

Additional Resources


  • 38th Parallel
  • Armistice
  • Cold War
  • Demilitarized Zone
  • General Douglas Macarthur
  • North Korea
  • South Korea
  • United Nations


U.S. HistoryWorld History


Middle SchoolHigh School