Inside the Hermit Kingdom: Resources for Teaching North Korea

Posted on Tue, Apr 09, 2013 @ 09:04 AM

It’s been nearly a month since North Korea “nullified” the 1953 Korean War armistice and over the last few weeks, Americans have been bombarded with foreboding news headlines about military drills and escalating nuclear tensions. Though these tensions may not be new to us (or our parents and grandparents), they certainly are for many of our students. To help answer some of your students’ questions about what is commonly referred to as the “Hermit Kingdom,” we’re referring you to a few of our favorite resources.

crossing the lineCrossing the Line (90 minutes)
We’ve watched several documentaries about North Korea, but this is definitely one of the most memorable. The film follows James Joseph Dresnok, a US Army private fed up with military life who, at the height of the Cold War, suddenly decides to cross the DMZ and defect to North Korea.

Through archival footage and contemporary interviews with Dresnok himself, we find out that he wasn’t imprisoned or killed. Instead, he was assimilated into the culture and even became a North Korean “movie star,” playing the villain in Kim Jong Il’s personally-produced propaganda films.


inside north koreaInside North Korea (52 minutes)
Few Americans have set foot on North Korean soil and after viewing this documentary, we doubt that few will want to. Posing as an international medical team, Lisa Ling (a National Geographic correspondent) gives us an unprecedented view of life inside the country: Its leader has rejected foreign aid, most of its citizens are malnourished or starving and yet those interviewed by Ling and her team revere their “Great Leader” as a deity. This documentary is fascinating and eerie, but still appropriate for younger students.


north koreaNorth Korea’s Nuclear Threat
Learn about North Korea’s missile technology and its key historical players through this interactive website.

Missile Defense Systems interactive
Another interactive website that shows viewers up-to-date missile defense systems deployed to counter North Korean threats.


If you’re looking for a more comprehensive list of resources related to North Korea, we recommend you stop by Larry Ferlazzo’s site; he has an impressive list going and he updates regularly.


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