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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3695 The Korean War

40 creditsClass Size: 16

Module manager: Dr Adam Cathcart

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Korea, the hub of Northeast Asian political and military conflict in the second half of the twentieth century, remains a puzzling world problem, an unfinished war, and the site of divided and mutually hostile states. This module will examine Kim Il-sung's role in the creation of North Korea under Soviet occupation until 1948, American military aid to South Korea, and the origins of the war that began in 1950. As backdrop, students will delve into the Chinese revolution, Soviet foreign policy, and the US occupation of Japan in American Cold War strategy. Personalities at the core of the module include Kim Il-sung, Mao Zedong, Douglas MacArthur, Harry Truman, and Joseph Stalin, but the difficulties the occupation and war imposed on the Korean people will also take centre stage, including the role of massive US bombing of Korea. American foreign policy and Anglo-American decision-making, the mechanics of the United Nations intervention in Korea, and the politics of nuclear and bacteriological weapons, as well as propaganda and culture, will be discussed.


By the end of this module students should have developed:
- The ability to write clearly about the division of Korea, and political factions in both Koreas;
- A broad knowledge of how the developing Cold War shaped political developments in northeast Asia, and vice versa;
- A clear capacity to discuss the evolution of the Korean War as it evolved from an inter-Korean conflict into a broader global war;
- A deeper understanding of the domestic and external context for the consolidation of power by Kim Il-sung in North Korea, and the role of Soviet and Chinese aid in that consolidation;
- The capacity to engage with the principal historiographical questions and controversies surrounding the war;
- An ability to identify and synthesise a wide range of secondary source material, and to identify, analyse and evaluate primary source material of relevance to the subject;
- Skills in the effective and appropriate communication of knowledge both orally and in writing.

Learning outcomes
By the end of this module, students should have acquired extensive knowledge of:
(1) Korea as the hub of Northeast Asian political and military conflict in the second half of the twentieth century. Central to this is the role played by North Korea as it emerged out of Soviet occupation in 1948 and initiated war against its US-backed counterpart regime, the Republic of Korea, in 1950;
(2) the interrelationship of the Cold War and communist revolutions in Northeast Asia, the Chinese revolution, Stalin’s stance toward the US in East Asia as well as his own allies, and the role played by the U.S. occupation of Japan;
(3) the impact of certain personalities at the core of the Korean War narrative: notably Kim Il-sung, Mao Zedong, Douglas MacArthur, Harry Truman, and Joseph Stalin;
(4) American foreign policy and Anglo-American decision-making, and the mechanics of the United Nations intervention in Korea, as well as Kim Il-sung's methods of securing support from his comrades;
(5) other topics which will require student fluency include the impact of the war on the Korean people, the role of massive and largely unopposed US bombing of Korea, and Chinese-North Korean co-operation in their shared border region.

In addition, students should be able to demonstrate extensive familiarity with the principal biographical and secondary literature in this area and enhanced skills in analysis and critical thinking in relation to these sources.


1. Korea and the Japanese Ascendency, 1910-1945
2. Northeast Asia and the Korean Exile Movement
3. Korea, the US, and the USSR in World War II
4. The US Occupation of Korea and Japan
5. The Soviet Occupation of North Korea
6. The Cold War in Asia: China, Japan, and Great Power Strategy
7. 1948
8. Stalin, Mao, and Kim Il-sung
9. Cumings, Millett, and Theories of Korean War Origins
10. North Korean Victories and US Response
11. MacArthur, the Pusan Landing, and the US Occupation of North Korea
12. China Crosses the Yalu
13. The MacArthur Controversy
14. North Korean-Chinese Relations
15. The Bombing of North Korea
16. POW Camps
17. Korean War Culture and Propaganda on the Home Fronts
18. The Korean War and Europe
19. Eisenhower, Dulles, and Nuclear Threats
20. The Armistice
21. Impacts of the Conflict I
22. Impacts of the Conflict II

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours356.00
Total Contact hours44.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)400.00

Private study

Undertaking set reading; further self-directed reading around the topic; seminar preparation; researching, preparing and writing assessments; exam preparation.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Participation in weekly seminar discussions; informal and formal presentation of research findings in class; ongoing progress discussions with tutor.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 4,000 word essay due by 12.00pm on Monday of January exam week 240.00
PresentationVerbal presentation, format to be determined by tutor10.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 00 mins50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:25:08


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