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South Korea – creating a sustainable giantBookmark

Learning area: Geography
Year level: Year 9
Country: South Korea
General capability: Intercultural understanding

This learning sequence looks at the development of South Korea as an industrial giant. Students will gain insight into South Korea's move towards sustainable development. Students are provided the opportunity to display their knowledge and understanding by creating an online presentation looking at the impact of economic development on the natural environment of South Korea.

Key inquiry questions

  • Why is South Korea an industrial giant?
  • What has been the impact of industrialisation on South Korea?
  • How is South Korea addressing the issue of sustainable development?

Hangang Railway Bridge in Seoul, Korea on a cloudy dayThe Han river in Seoul


Image: Han River – Betacommand ‪(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Related resources

Activity 1: South Korea's economy

In this activity, you will explore background information about South Korea and its economy.

Key inquiry question: Why is South Korea an industrial giant?

  1. What do you know about South Korea? Do you have any school friends, relatives, friends or neighbours who have come from South Korea? What have you read or seen on television? Share your information and use websites such as Create interactive infographics or Telling stories with data to create an infographic about South Korea. Save it as a draft as you will add to it as you progress through this activity.
  2. Read the following articles:
  3. View the maps and images of South Korea by selecting South Korea photos.
  4. Add any additional information you have discovered to your infographic.
  5. Select the link below the map of Asia to enlarge it. This map can be printed. On your map locate the following features. Remember all maps should contain a border, orientation, legend or key, title and scale (sometimes called BOLTS):
    • South Korea
    • North Korea
    • China
    • Japan
    • Sea of Japan, East China Sea, and coastline
    • Cities of Seoul, Busan, Ulsan and Changwon.
  6. Refer to the map of cities in South Korea to add more information. Then use your map to describe the physical position of South Korea in the Asia region.
  7. Select Import/export By Country and use the table to discuss the range and number of countries that South Korea trades with. Predict what South Korea may be importing from these countries and what South Korea may be exporting to these countries before you investigate further.
  8. Use the information provided to examine at the products that South Korea exports. Discuss how these could be categorised; for example, heavy industrial goods, information and communications technologies or agricultural goods. Choose the most appropriate headings and create a table listing South Korea's exports under the correct category.
  9. Create a spider diagram with South Korea's exports in the centre circle. Draw circles around the centre circle and connect them with lines to the centre. Write in each a key export. Draw lines from each of these and identify any products that are imported by South Korea to create this product. You will find this information on the right.
  10. Once you have completed your diagram, use this information and the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website to determine the trade links Australia has with South Korea.
  11. Finalise your infographic. Share it with the rest of the class and explain your choice of information.

Activity 2: Economic development and the environment

In this activity, you will examine the impact that being an industrial giant has had on South Korea's natural environment.

Key inquiry question: What has been the impact of industrialisation on South Korea?

  1. You are going to create an online presentation looking at the impact of rapid industrialisation on the natural environment of South Korea. Before doing this, you will be gathering information to support your presentation.
  2. Read the information about South Korea's economic rise (below).
  3. Watch the video, South Korea: A Nation to Watch, to find out about the rise of South Korea as an industrial giant.
  4. Create a two-columned table. In one column list the reasons why you think South Korea has become an industrial giant. In the second column, list the effects you think this may have had on the people of South Korea and the natural environment.
  5. Share your responses with the rest of the class. Add any ideas you may have missed.
  6. Examine the images of Seoul and Changwon. These are two of South Korea's largest industrial centres. List the economic activity that you think is occurring in each one and describe the impact this is having on the natural environment.
  7. Now look at the Go Korea! website and explore the four stories supporting the theme 'The environment: manufactured and natural'. Identify the key messages in each of these stories and write these down.
  8. It is now time to create your presentation. Think about the key themes you would like to address in your presentation. Create a fishbone diagram to define your key headings with supporting information. Start your presentation by providing some background information about South Korea and how it became an industrial giant. You should include in your map, factual information about South Korea's geography, recent history, population growth, key industrial cities, economic growth and current trade information. Remember that visual impact is important. You can access images using Wikipedia Commons free media repository for South Korea. It is important that you reference all your sources.
  9. Take your turn with others in the class to give your presentation.
  10. With another student, discuss which presentation you thought was the most effective. Share your choice with the whole class giving reasons why you and your partner made this decision.

About South Korea's rise

From 1953 to today, South Korea has steadily grown into one of the world's industrial giants. Its industrial structure has been drastically transformed from an economy that was largely agricultural to one that currently boasts a sizeable manufacturing sector.

Since the 1960s, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and global integration to become a high-tech industrialised economy. It is currently among the world's 20 largest economies.

The road to industrial success began with the government promoting the importation of raw materials and technology at the expense of consumer goods, and encouraging savings and investment over consumption. The Asian financial crisis of 1997–98 exposed longstanding weaknesses in South Korea's development model and it began to adopt numerous economic reforms, including greater openness to foreign investment and imports. Access more information about ‪‬‬South Korea's Economy on the website.

The South Korean economy's long-term challenges include a rapidly ageing population, an inflexible labour market, and overdependence on manufacturing exports to drive economic growth.

Activity 3: Sustainable development

In this activity, you will explore South Korea's move towards sustainable development and write an investigative report.

Key inquiry question: How is South Korea addressing the issue of sustainable development?

  1. Form groups of three and view the resources on the right, and the text in the box below.
  2. Read more about how South Korean consumers are improving their national sustainability index by viewing the Greendex Consumer Choice and the Environment Worldwide Tracking Survey.
  3. Your task is to write and film an investigative report focusing on sustainable development in South Korea. Discuss and write some 'big inquiry questions' that will frame your investigation. These might include:
    • What is sustainability?
    • Why is it important?
    • What are some of the key strategies people/companies/organisations/governments can put into practice?
    • What methods lead to maintaining sustainability in the environment?
    • How is South Korea promoting sustainability in its own country?
    • How effective are these strategies?
    • Are there blockers such as cultural issues?
    • How does South Korea compare to other countries, especially Australia?
  4. Once you have determined what you are going to research, view the resources contained in this activity once more and conduct additional internet research to find your answers. Make sure you identify what is opinion and what is factual.
  5. Use your research notes to write a script for a presentation. Source images to support your script. Decide who is going to read the script, and rehearse.
  6. Film or record the presentation and then use software such as Windows Movie Maker to create your storyboard.
  7. Edit your presentation, looking at the visual and aural impact and the flow of the report.
  8. Present your work to the class. Once everyone has presented, discuss the impact of each media piece and how effective it was.

What is sustainability?

We hear the words 'sustainable' and 'sustainability' almost every day. But what does sustainability mean exactly? Is it about people and culture, our environment, or jobs and money? Is it about cities or the country? Is it about you and me or is it something for other people to worry about?

Sustainability is about all of these things and more. Read the article What is sustainability? on the LandLearn website. For another view, watch the video Sustainability in 2 minutes (on the right).

How is South Korea working towards more sustainable growth?

South Korea has become a leader in technology in recent years and it is pushing to become an environmental leader.

South Korea has rapidly industrialised over the past several decades and, with this growth spurt, has also become a large consumer of coal and oil. Cars account for 60 percent of air pollutants in South Korea, which have caused acid rain to fall in cities. Much of the smog and coal emissions travel from China by air currents over to Korea and Japan, thus decreasing air quality in those countries. South Korean forests are also rapidly diminishing. These forests contain many different varieties of flora and fauna.

Government funding is being invested in renewable energy. In November 2011, Bloomberg reported that, by 2020, the South Korean government was aiming to spend 35.5 trillion won ($31 billion) in order to 'develop technology for renewable and nuclear energy and carbon emissions reduction.'

Green growth is a policy focus for the Asia and Pacific region that emphasises environmentally sustainable economic progress to foster low-carbon, socially inclusive development.

It is hoped that the development of environment-friendly technologies will boost South Korea's economic competitiveness.

To learn more, watch the video clip Green Growth (on the right).

Current sustainability projects in South Korea
  1. Songdo is a new sustainable city in South Korea. Read more about Songdo by selecting Songdo IBD: A brand new South Korean city and thisbigcity: Two (Very) Different Global Sustainability Projects You Should Know About
  2. Read about a river restoration project by selecting The Cheonggyecheon River Restoration Project, Seoul, South Korea.
  3. Learn how South Koreans are becoming sustainable consumers by selecting Greendex Consumer Choice and the Environment Worldwide Tracking Survey.

Activity 4: Reflection

To conclude this learning sequence, you will reflect on what you have learned and how it relates to future management of the world.

Listen to the Teaching and Learning For A Sustainable Future: A letter from the future and discuss the following questions:

  • What do you think is the main message in the letter?
  • What have you learned about South Korea's move towards being a sustainable industrial giant?
  • How do you think future generations will reflect on their management of their environment?

This learning sequence provides students the opportunity to investigate and discuss the impact of industrial growth on South Korea's natural environment.

Activity 1: South Korea's economy

This activity will provide your students with the opportunity to explore South Korea and its economy. Start the activity by finding out what your students know about South Korea.

Once students have created their infographic using this information, make sure they continue to update it as they learn more about the country. Students will refer to the resources contained within this activity.

Activity 2: Economic development and the environment

In this activity students will build on what they learned in Activity 1 and will create a presentation exploring the impact of industrialisation on the natural environment. The Go Korea! site is an excellent resource and provides information about both the built and natural environments. It is important that students understand the spiritual connection between the South Korean people and the land. You may wish to show the video Healthy parks, healthy people in Asia skils as an example of Australia's connections with South Korea and park management.

Students will refer to the resource about industrial giants within this activity.

Activity 3: Sustainable development

In this activity students will create an investigative report focusing on South Korea's move towards sustainable development. They may find some articles that allude to the level of corruption in business and government practice. Balance this with discussions about the increasing move towards transparency in this area.

Students will refer to the information, images and video contained within the activity.

Activity 4: Reflection

Students will use the resource Teaching And Learning For A Sustainable Future to reflect on what they have learned in this module.

Useful websites

It is recommended that teachers preview websites to ensure they are suitable for their students prior to use in class. Content accessed via these links is not owned or controlled by Asia Education Foundation and is subject to the terms of use of the associated website.

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