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Lesson 8: Korean Popular Culture in the United States
Activity 8.3: Korean Americans Past, Present, and Future


Students explore differences between biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs.  They conduct research for a biographical presentation and compose their own memoir.

Young Kim is a South Korean-born American politician and businesswoman serving as the U.S. representative for California's 39th congressional district. (Source: Wikipedia)


Activity Questions

  • What are differences between biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs?

  • How do memoirs help us understand how individuals develop their Korean American identity?

  • How have movies directed by or starring Koreans and Korean Americans made an international impact?

  • How have Korean Americans contributed to the U.S. and world?

  • How have contributions of Korean Americans shaped your identity as a Korean American?

Instructional Strategies

  • To support this lesson, use the Lesson 8 Teacher's Guide and Lesson 8 Presentation found at Lesson 8.

Korean Americans; Past and Present

  • Introduce Susie Woo and provide an overview to the video.  Point out that they should recognize (from earlier lessons) some of what Dr. Woo presents.  However, Dr. Woo provides a synthesis of the immigration history of Korean Americans and examines their achievements in the last 50 years.

  • View the video (almost 40 minutes).

  • Discuss how Korean American achievements have evolved over the last 50 years.

Notable Korean Americans

  • Review the examples provided of notable Korean Americans (congressmen, scientists and engineers, athletes, and writers).

  • Have students brainstorm a list of additional notable Korean Americans and their contributions.

Research Presentation

  • Review the differences between a biography, autobiography, and memoir. Point out that students have encountered biographies and memoirs in previous lessons:

    • Sammy Lee's Biography: Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds​  (Lesson 3)

    • Sammy Lee's Biographical Essay: A Biographical Overview of Dr. Sammy Lee (Lesson 3)

    • Young Oak Kim's Biography (Lesson 5)

    • Carol Park's Memoir: Memoir of a Cashier (Lesson 7)

  • Introduce students to the research assignment.  Let them know they are going to compose a 10-slide research presentation on a notable Korean American of their choice.

  • Review the Peer Review and Scoring Guide for Biographical Presentation.

  • Direct students to select a notable Korean American to research.  The following resources will be helpful:

  • Provide students time to complete their research and presentations.  When complete, have students give oral presentations to the class. Alternatively, they could narrate the presentations and make them available in the online course platform for review and comments.

Closing Activity

  • End class with review and discussion of the activity questions.


Biographical Presentation Peer Review/Scoring Guide (PDF)

YouTube Video: Korean Americans Past and Present (29:43)

Susie Woo, Assistant Professor of American Studies at Cal State Fullerton, shares the struggles of Korean immigrants in the United States and the history that has brought them here. Challenging many myths about Korean Americans, she shares her own story, while discussing the three waves of Korean immigration, their religion, pop culture and Korean American achievement in a country they have come to call their own. 

Notable Korean Americans (PDF)

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