Sorry, this course is not currently running. Browse other Politics & Society courses.

  • Yonsei University logo

Modern Korean History: Liberation, War and Nuclear Ambitions

Explore the unique and untold history of North and South Korea - from 1945 to the present - with this free online course.

8,185 enrolled on this course

Modern Korean History: Liberation, War and Nuclear Ambitions
  • Duration6 weeks
  • Weekly study3 hours
  • CertificatesAvailable

The contemporary history of the Korean peninsula has been a tumultuous tale of decolonization, war and rapid economic development. Both North and South Korea has had an immense impact on the world stage and today many wonder why this region of East Asia appears so frequently in the international news.

This free online course, from Yonsei University in Seoul, will explore the modern history of Korea from 1945 to the present. The historical journey will wind its way through a catastrophic civil war, economic collapse, and the rapid rise of two model states within the Cold War framework. We will examine how two rival nations emerged from the ashes of the war and ask such question as:

● How did North Korea create a model socialist state and build a controversial nuclear program despite its economic collapse?

● And how did South Korea achieve rapid economic development, despite decades of military rule and a long struggle for democracy?

The course will take us all the way down to the present day to explore the complexity of North-South relations and the fascinating details behind the rise of K-Pop and rapid demographic change in South Korea.

The educator for this course is Michael Kim, who is a professor of Modern Korean history at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies. Michael Kim was educated in the United States but has had a long professional career at Korea’s top private university. His unique qualifications will provide you with an insider and outsider’s perspective on modern Korea.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds Korea is often called the land of morning calm. This image of timeless serenity reflects the mistranslation of the word Choson, which was the name of the royal dynasty founded in 1392 that ruled Korea for over 500 years. Two Chinese characters formed the word “cho,” or morning, and “son,” which means freshness but can also mean brilliant or clear. Koreans observed that just as Japan is always to the east, Korea is always east of China. When the Chinese looked east, they saw the sun rise from that direction, and they called Korea the land of clear morning light. Traditional Koreans firmly believed the brilliance of their cultural achievements. The modern history of Korea, however, is a tragic tale of colonisation, division, and war.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds I’m Michael Kim, a modern Korean historian at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. My course will focus on the Korean history from 1945 to the present. Out of the ashes of the Korean War that broke out in June 1950 emerged two rival nations with their own burning desire to enter the world stage. The North created a model socialist state under Kim Il-sung that collapsed economically after the fall of the Soviet Union. The North’s economic struggles, however, did not prevent it from developing a controversial nuclear programme that shocked the world. South Korea had one of the lowest GDPs in the world 1950s, yet achieved rapid economic development. But not without a troubled history of military rule and protracted struggle for democracy.

Skip to 1 minute and 42 seconds My course will allow us to examine the reasons why the light of Korea once again shines upon the world stage. And we will discuss the complex politics and the fascinating story behind the modern transformation of this prominent East Asian nation.

Who is the course for?

This course is aimed at anyone with an interest in East Asian and World History. No prior qualifications or familiarity with Korea or the Korean language are necessary.

Who will you learn with?

Professor of Korean History at the Graduate School of International Studies, Associate Dean of Underwood International College, Yonsei University; A.B. Dartmouth College, Ph.D. Harvard University

Who developed the course?

Yonsei University

Yonsei University was established in 1885 and is the oldest private university in Korea.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps, but you can complete them as quickly or slowly as you like
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #FLmodernkorea to talk about this course on social media.