Korea was the first real hot spot of the cold war. And ironically, as well as tragically, it remains a volatile part of the world long after US relations with China and Russia have been improved. Remind your students that American troops still patrol the DMZ, and Korea is perhaps America's most dangerous nuclear adversary. In other words, there is a great deal of contemporary importance in sorting out the Korean War.
You might want to start by making sure that your students have a sense of the geography of the region; begin by asking your students to speculate about the strategic value Korea held for each country involved. But, at the same time, you will not want to overemphasize these strategic questions. American policymakers were interested in far more than a toe-hold in Asia. One of the exercises included here will help your students understand the postwar perspective of foreign policy analysts—the perspective that led them to see America's vital interests threatened by a civil war in a country half way around the world.