Korean Americans are one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups whose history in the United States reaches back to the late 1800s. According to the 2020 Census, Korean Americans are California's fifth-largest Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. As stated in the California Assembly Concurrent Resolutions No. 109 and No. 142, the Korean American community is "an integral part of mainstream American society" and are "immigrants who have helped turn emergent areas within California into thriving and respectable communities." Yet, despite our contributions to economic and community development, our presence in the K-12 setting is negligible in recognition of both curricular content and robust academic achievement. Over the last 20 years, educators have added important lessons about the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese Internment into California public schools' curricula, even for elementary school students. Nevertheless, neither Korean American history nor contributions of Korean Americans are available in the current California secondary school curricula. To exclude the Korean American community from the social science or history curriculum is to dismiss a significant part of California's history from, and insights into, the experience of "people of color," along with an important amplification of that widely-used term.
As a university professor and teacher trainer for over 25 years, I am constantly reminded of the lack of available teaching resources and materials to provide equitable and inclusive education. It is essential to have a well-balanced curriculum representing diverse groups' contributions to U.S. history and their success stories, including the hardships they faced as a minority and how they overcame racial discrimination. It is vital to highlight Korean American history, especially in Southern California, where many Korean Americans reside and where many great Korean Americans have worked and thrived. Our students will benefit from learning about role models such as Dr. Sammy Lee (an Olympic medalist and medical doctor who served in the U.S. Army hospital) and Colonel Young Oak Kim (a U.S. Army officer and the first Asian American to lead a combat battalion). As such, I have collaborated with scholars, educators, and community leaders to develop the Korean American Ethnic Studies curriculum and teaching resource materials for K–12 classrooms as the first step in creating a non-anti-Asian and inclusive society for all.
There are many individuals I would like to recognize and express gratitude for supporting me over the past two years until this book's first edition is completed. I particularly want to thank my family for planting a seed in me to see the value of developing and maintaining my Korean language skills and being proud of my Korean heritage. Also, I would like to thank the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Los Angeles, especially the Education Consul Ha Young Choi, for her confidence in me and her tireless support throughout the process. Also, I feel blessed to have been surrounded by many great people who helped me enhance this groundbreaking book of Korean American Ethnic Studies teaching resource materials. In particular, I would like to thank former CSUF Vice President, the late Danny Kim for supporting me wholeheartedly before his retirement.
In addition, I would like to thank my colleagues at the Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee for Korean Americans and many educators who attended the initial 7-week introductory webinars in 2021 when we first presented these resources and for giving us constructive feedback. Also, very special appreciation goes to the original Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) authors, led by Professor Edward Chang. Without the original lessons, we would not have been able to achieve the supplemental work we carried out.
Another special thanks go to the supplementary curriculum development team and the editorial team, who worked so hard, even giving up their vacations and holidays to work on refining these teaching resource materials. Their efforts and sacrifice were invaluable for the successful publication of this important and historically significant work.
In this book, you will see that ESMC has been re-edited and categorized in chronological order from the Korean Diaspora & Early Korean Immigrants to Korean Americans in the 21st Century. Many teachers can easily choose and combine the materials in this book with other lessons. We have also aligned with various content area state standards since ethnic studies is an interdisciplinary curriculum. We have included a teacher guide, up to three lesson activities, assessments, extension activities, and additional resources to explore each lesson further and for easier implementation of those lessons.
These teaching materials are just the beginning of our work and may not be representative of all of Korean American experiences. More Korean American Ethnic Studies curricula should be developed, and teacher training should be carried out concurrently. For this to happen, many educators, as well as people who are interested in Korean American studies, must work together for years to come. People who know other notable Korean American experiences should inform us. University professors specializing in content areas, teacher trainers, and classroom teachers can play essential roles in developing and validating the Korean American Studies curriculum and teaching materials. School teachers, administrators, district staff, and community representatives should form a task force to discuss these valuable educational materials' implementation and dissemination aspects. If you know any other Korean American experiences that our K-12 students should learn from, please feel free to share with us your unique 'Unsung Korean American heroes' and their stories.
Finally, I extend my greetings to all who will benefit and gain valuable insights from this book, and I hope you will enjoy reading and learning. Again, my heartfelt appreciation goes to all those who have supported and encouraged me in many ways to produce this first teaching resource materials to teach Korean American Studies in K-12 classrooms effectively. Thank you, everyone!
Grace Cho, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Secondary Education
California State University, Fullerton