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 Pacific Islander (API) 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, our presence is nearly invisible in the K-12 school settings. 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, Korean Americans’ experiences, struggles, triumphs, and contributions to the U.S. are not heard of in the current K-12 school curricula nor mentioned in history textbooks. To exclude the Korean American community from the social science or history curriculum is to dismiss a significant part of California's history and insight into the experience of "people of color."
As a professor and a teacher trainer for over 25 years, I am constantly reminded of the lack of available teaching resources 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. As an example, it is vital to highlight Korean American history, especially in Southern California, where many Korean Americans reside and where many great Korean Americans have lived 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 first Asian American officer in the U.S. Army to lead a combat battalion and philanthropist). 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 more inclusive society for all.
I have many individuals to express gratitude for supporting me and helping me over the past two years until the Korean American Ethnic Studies Curriculum: Teaching Resource Materials for K-12 classrooms (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 Korean Consulate General of Los Angeles, especially the Education Consul Ha Young Choi, for her confidence in me and her support throughout the process. Also, I feel blessed to be surrounded by many great people who helped me enhance this Korean American Ethnic Studies teaching resource materials. In particular, I would like to thank former CSUF Vice President 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 (ESACKA) and many educators who attended the initial 7-week introductory webinars in 2021 and listened intensely, giving us constructive feedback, as well as the original Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) authors. Without the original lessons developed by them, we would not have been able to achieve the supplemental work that we carried out.
Special thanks go to the supplementary curriculum development team and the editorial team who worked so hard, even sacrificing their summer vacation and holidays to work on refining these teaching resource materials. Their efforts and sacrifice were invaluable for the successful publication of this important and significant work.
In this companion website, we have digitalized all the Korean ES lessons. 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, download, and combine with other lessons. We have also aligned with various content area standards since ethnic studies is an interdisciplinary curriculum. We have included a teacher guide, 1-3 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 the work and may not be representative of all Korean American experiences. More Korean American Studies lessons need to be collected and further developed, and teacher training should be carried out concurrently. For this to happen, many educators must work together in the long run. 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 further on these valuable educational materials' implementation and dissemination aspects. Now that the initial step of compiling stories of Korean Americans’ experiences and their contributions to the United States have been published, the next step is to collaborate with scholars and experts from other ethnic/racial groups to find “intersectionality” among marginalized groups and to weave these connections into the fabric of U.S. history. Collaboration with other scholars and experts is an important next step toward advocating for a more Just, Equitable, and Inclusive Education.
Finally, I would like to extend my greetings to all who will benefit from this book and 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 and efficiently. Thank you, everyone!
Grace Cho, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Secondary Education
California State University, Fullerton