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  • Winter TermOnline Scheduled



Unit rationale, description and aim

The nations of the Korean peninsula play an out-sized role in the contemporary world, in international relations, economic power and cultural influence. The Republic of Korea is currently Australia’s fourth-largest trading partner, after China, Japan and the US. South Korea has successfully created global engagement with its history, society and culture via cultural products such as K-Pop, film and TV dramas.

This unit will introduce students to the skills required to interpret narratives about the history, politics, societies and cultures of the two Korean nations through musical, aesthetic, literary, social and cultural forms. The unit will examine the continuing influence of foundation myths, Confucian traditions, popular story-telling, war and colonialism on contemporary society and introduce the wealth of primary sources that remain to understand Korean experiences of the world in the past and present. Students will also develop their understanding of key scholarly debates and explore a specific area of interest in inquiry-based research activities.

The aim of this unit is to acquire cultural and historical competency in a dynamic and powerful region of the world, providing students with opportunities to develop the skills to analyse key developments in the history, societies and cultures of the Korean peninsula and to assess their continuing impact in the world today.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Trace the contours of the social, cultural, and political history of the Korean peninsula to the present.GC1
LO2Identify the key scholarly approaches and debates in understanding Korean history and culture.GC2
LO3Communicate clearly in written form to critically analyse and evaluate one's own ideas and those of others and to synthesise information to formulate clear and well-reasoned positionsGC7, GC9, GC10
LO4Use and appropriately reference a variety of primary and secondary sources relevant to the history of the Korean peninsula to develop an evidence-based historical narrative or argument.GC3, GC11
LO5Apply critical thinking skills to interpreting a variety of cultural outputs as they relate to Korean historyGC1, GC2, GC7


Topics will include:

  • Environment as identity on the Korean peninsula
  • The history of East Asian international relations
  • The impact of war and colonialism on Korean identity constructions
  • Narratives of the past in contemporary Korean culture
  • Korean traditions of story-telling
  • Confucian traditions and their legacies
  • Korean elites and others in Korea’s past and present
  •  Korean religions and philosophy
  • Korean aesthetics and ideas of beauty
  • North Korea and juche
  • Gender relations in Korea’s past and present
  • The Hallyu wave and K-Pop as art and industry

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This 10-credit point, intensive unit in online mode, provides a self-paced learning approach, as well as opportunities for collaborative learning through interaction with other students.

All learning activities are held online. All lectures will be available for self-paced learning; however, workshops will be at scheduled times, which will require some attendance to enable online interaction. Activities requiring attendance will be specified in the unit schedule.

Lectures provide students with basic content knowledge, present methodologies for interpreting source material in different media and highlight key debates in the scholarship. Lectures also establish guidance for the independent learning expected in this unit. Students receive regular and timely feedback on their learning, which includes information on their progress. 

Active student participation is anticipated and encouraged in the online environment and facilitated through a specific assessment task. Students are encouraged to contribute to asynchronous module discussions. Active learning opportunities provide students with opportunities to practice and apply their learning. Activities encourage students to bring their own examples to demonstrate understanding, application and engage constructively with their peers.

Workshops are designed to provide students with a peer-to-peer learning environment in which they can discuss, and debate issues and problems raised in lectures, in set readings and through their own exploration of the topics. Students consolidate their understanding, knowledge, analytical and communication skills through negotiation and interaction with both other students and staff. Workshops may take a variety of forms, all of which provide different learning opportunities, including working in pairs to share ideas; working in small groups for quick analysis, debate and identification of the most relevant and salient information; opportunities to brainstorm; opportunities to participate in whole group discussions; opportunities to work with source materials (primary and secondary); opportunities to learn through informal presentations.

The unit is hosted on a Learning Management System (LMS) site with resources and online links, announcements, and a discussion board to post questions and reflections that promote the connection between content and educational experiences.

Assessment strategy and rationale

This unit introduces students to historical strategies for understanding how to interpret a broad sweep of Korean history, society and culture to the present. Students will learn to analyse historical materials and contemporary cultural products, such as music, music videos, tv drama, film and literature, to understand historical events, memory-making about the past, and contemporary Korean politics, society and culture. Students will complement these skills by learning how to interpret and assess historical and scholarly debates and consider how knowledge of the past is constructed.

 Students will consolidate their knowledge of the social, cultural, and political history of the Korean peninsula to the present through the ‘Korean History Quizzes’ task. They will demonstrate content knowledge gained over the semester within this task. Students will research, construct and defend a scholarly argument in the ‘Korean Culture and Society Blog Posts’ task. Students then build on the skills developed in the Blog Posts task to complete an independent research investigation that incorporates evidence from primary and secondary material into their analysis in the ‘Research Essay’ task. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Capabilities

Assessment Task 1: Korean History Quizzes:

Students complete 6 online quizzes that demonstrate a mastery of unit materials and content and apply analytical skills to understand how time, place, politics and context have shaped debates about Korean history.


LO1, LO2GC1, GC2

Assessment Task 2: Korean Culture and Society Blog Posts:

Students research and construct 1 blog post, and respond to 2 others, evaluating competing perspectives on Korean culture and society.   


LO3, LO4, LO5GC1, GC2, GC7, GC9, GC10

Assessment Task 3: Research Essay:

Students demonstrate research skills to locate and use primary and secondary materials appropriate to studies on Korean history and to communicate clearly in written or digital form to construct a written evidence-based historical narrative or argument with appropriate referencing.

 Topics and guidelines will be posted on the learning management system. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5GC1, GC2, GC3, GC7, GC9, GC10, GC11

Representative texts and references


Choi, Won-Oh, An Illustrated Guide to Korean Mythology (2008)

Han, Jong-Woo and Jung Tae-Hern, Understanding North Korea: Indigenous Perspectives (2014)

Kim, Jinwung, A History of Korea: From Land of the Morning Calm to States in Conflict (2012)

Kim, Suk-Young (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to K-Pop (2023)

Kim Haboush, JaHyun, The Great East Asian War and the Birth of the Korean Nation (2016)

Lee, Hong Yung, Ha, Yong-ch’ul, Sorensen, Clark W. (eds), Colonial Rule and Social Change in Korea, 1910-1945 (2013)

 Lee, Peter H. (ed.) A History of Korean Literature (2003)

Lie, John, K-Pop: Popular Music, Cultural Amnesia and Economic Innovation in South Korea (2015)

 Park. J.P. Jungmann, Burglind and Rhi Juhyung, Arnold, Dana (eds), A Companion to Korean Art (2020)

Stueck, William, The Korean War: An International History (1995)


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