Elise Hu

Elise Hu is an award-winning correspondent assigned to NPR's newest international bureau, in Seoul, South Korea. She's responsible for covering geopolitics, business and life in both Koreas and Japan. She previously covered the intersection of technology and culture for the network's on-air, online and multimedia platforms.

Hu joined NPR in 2011 to coordinate the digital development and editorial vision for the StateImpact network, a state government reporting project focused on member stations.

Before joining NPR, she was one of the founding reporters at The Texas Tribune, a non-profit digital news startup devoted to politics and public policy. While at the Tribune, Hu oversaw television partnerships and multimedia projects; contributed to The New York Times' expanded Texas coverage and pushed for editorial innovation across platforms.

An honors graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia's School of Journalism, she previously worked as the state political reporter for KVUE-TV in Austin, WYFF-TV in Greenville, SC, and reported from Asia for the Taipei Times.

Her work has earned a Gannett Foundation Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism, a National Edward R. Murrow award for best online video, beat reporting awards from the Texas Associated Press and The Austin Chronicle once dubiously named her the "Best TV Reporter Who Can Write."

Outside of work, Hu has taught digital journalism at Northwestern University and Georgetown University's journalism schools and serves as a guest co-host for TWIT.tv's program, Tech News Today. She's also an adviser to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, where she keeps up with emerging media and technology as a panelist for the Knight News Challenge.

Elise Hu can be reached by e-mail at ehu (at) npr (dot) org as well as via the social media links, above.

When it comes to global politics off the rink — most of the spotlight has fallen on North and South Korea. But just as the two Koreas have been making nice, South Korea and Japan have gotten chilly.

On the ice — Nao Kodaira of Japan and two-time gold medalist Lee Sang-hwa of Korea are the world's best at the 500 meter speed skate. They have finished within fractions of a second of each other for years and are constantly compared to one another. Sunday's much-watched showdown between the two was packed with extra meaning because their countries compete so fiercely, too.

Fierce and howling winds at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics have led to safety concerns and thrown the alpine skiing schedule into disarray. The gusts, which reached up to 50 miles per hour, led the local government to issue emergency alerts on the Korean mobile phone network warning of fire dangers and flying debris — and asking people to secure any outdoor equipment or furniture.

The strong winds meant that once again, U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin's first medal race in South Korea would be put off.

Updated at 9:30 a.m. ET

The sister of North Korea's leader, Kim Yo Jong, and other high-ranking officials from Pyongyang have met with South Korea's president. Their three-day visit to South Korea marks the highest level inter-Korean contact in more than a decade.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency also says Kim Yong Nam is "the only member of the communist state's ruling family to have visited the South, at least since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War."

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

As Vice President Pence began his two-stop Asia trip on Wednesday, he highlighted America's ties with longtime U.S. allies in the region, Japan and South Korea.

"I look forward to reinforcing the important priority that President Trump and the United States places on the relationships with these two nations," Pence said during a refueling stop on his way to Japan.

Both Japan and South Korea are considered cornerstones of U.S. security and economic relationships in Asia. But the relationship with one is going more smoothly than with the other.

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The Winter Olympics in South Korea will be a chance for the country to show off its newest robot creations. NPR's Elise Hu reports that the peek into the future starts as soon as you land at the airport.

In Gangnam, the upscale Seoul district south of the Han River bisecting the city, one of the area's biggest industries is evident on people's faces: On the streets, patients are wearing nose guards and bandages, fresh from facial fix-ups. High-rises soar with a cosmetic surgery clinic on every floor, and in the subway stations, floor-to-ceiling advertisements feature images of women's uniformly wide-eyed, youthful faces — all with the message that you, too, can look this way if you go to the right clinic.

At least 37 people are dead and dozens injured following a Friday morning fire that broke out in a hospital emergency room in Miryang, a town in southeastern South Korea.

Administrators at Sejong Hospital, the fire site, said one doctor, one nurse and one nurse's assistant were among the casualties. He further said that some 80 percent of the fatalities were elderly patients.

"I am truly sorry. I am sorry for the patients and their caretakers," said Seok Jeong-sik, the director of Sejong Hospital.

Efforts to make a show of North Korean and South Korean unity at the next Olympics are drawing a backlash in South Korea. In Seoul, protesters Monday set fire to the North Korean flag and a photo of Kim Jong Un. The South Korean president's approval rating has dropped in recent days as well.

"We oppose, we oppose, we oppose," shouted demonstrators at Seoul Station, the rail and subway station in the center of the capital. They showed up to confront a North Korean advance team that had arrived to scout out Olympic venues.

When South Korea hosts the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month, a combined North Korea-South Korea women's hockey team — the countries' first-ever joint team — will attract a lot of attention. So will the sight of athletes from the two Koreas, divided for some 70 years, marching together in the opening ceremony on Feb. 9.

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Updated at 2:05 p.m. ET

Cocooned by cameras, North Korea's negotiating team crossed the border Tuesday by foot, walking about 100 yards to a conference building for the first high-level talks with South Korea in two years. Seated across from one another at a long rectangular table, diplomats from both sides expressed the need to improve frosty ties.

Stopping North Korea's nuclear program is the thorniest foreign policy problem for the U.S. president in the new year, but then again, the same was true a year ago. What has changed in 2017 is North Korea's capability and the United States' approach.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is ready to talk about talking to North Korea.

"We're ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. And we're ready to have the first meeting without precondition," he said, in remarks Tuesday at the Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We hear this story again and again, but each time, it's just a little bit worse. North Korea tested a missile, and this time it appeared to have the longest range yet.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This month diners in Toronto were treated to a four-course meal at a pop-up restaurant called June's. The menu included Northern Thai leek and potato soup with a hint of curry, a pasta served with smoked arctic char followed by garlic rapini and flank steak. The entire meal was topped off with a boozy tiramisu for dessert.

In addition to a mouthwatering meal, the chefs at June's also served a message which they wore on their shirts: "Break bread. Smash stigma."

When a municipal lawmaker, Yuka Ogata, brought her 7-month-old baby to her job in a male-dominated legislature, she was met with such surprise and consternation by her male colleagues that eventually, she and the baby were asked to leave. Officials of the Kumamoto Municipal Assembly, of which she's a member, said although there's no rule prohibiting infants, they booted her citing a rule that visitors are forbidden from the floor.

Golf has played an outsize role in the relationship between the U.S. and Japan lately, as diplomacy between President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe often includes playing 18 holes together. But in Japan, where you can find half of all the golf courses in Asia, the industry is flagging.

America still has the largest golf industry in the world, by a long shot. But in Japan's economic heyday in the 1980s, it built up thousands of courses and the game became baked into its business culture.

As the #MeToo movement spread across the Internet, with women coming forward sharing tales of sexual assault and harassment, South Korean women were quick to identify.

Overall, violent crime numbers are considered low in South Korea, but in recent years, government statistics have shown a steady uptick in reported cases of sexual violence. And when it comes to gender equality, South Korea ranks poorly — near the bottom of all countries, in fact.

During his visit to Tokyo on Monday, President Trump highlighted a dark moment in Japan's history when he met with families of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean agents. In the 1970s, North Korea abducted at least a dozen Japanese citizens and took them to Pyongyang to train North Korean spies in Japanese language and customs. One abductee was 13.

Japanese voters have just days left to decide who they will support in a snap general election set for Sunday.

Japanese politics are usually tame. But this time around, the charismatic governor of Tokyo is adding unexpected elements to the race.

South Korea faces a chronic dirty air problem that makes it one of the most polluted countries in the world. It's common to hear that neighboring China is to blame, but a joint study by NASA and the Korean government has found there's a lot South Korea can do on its own to cut the smog.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has weighed in on the heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, with a personal analysis of President Trump's Tuesday speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

Trump's speech, which was notable for its apocalyptic rhetoric — it vowed to "totally destroy" North Korea and its 25 million people if the United States had to defend itself and its allies — aroused greater fears of military miscalculation that could lead to catastrophe.

In his latest tweet about North Korea, President Trump gave leader Kim Jong Un a new nickname — "Rocket Man" — and seems to indicate he thinks sanctions on the country are working: "Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad!" Trump wrote.

But are they, really? And what, if anything, could that tell us about the North Korean economy right now?

Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET Thursday

Japanese and South Korean officials have confirmed another missile test by North Korea Friday morning local time. This is the 15th North Korean missile test this year and the first to come after Pyongyang tested its most powerful nuclear bomb yet.

North Korea's neighbor of Japan is growing more alarmed by Pyongyang's advancing nuclear program, especially after a North Korean missile flew over the Japanese island of Hokkaido last week. It has led many residents to rethink the threat, even though they acknowledge they're largely powerless in this high-stakes geopolitical tussle.

Millions of residents in northern Japan got an early morning wake-up call last Tuesday, with a government text message just after 6 a.m. saying North Korea fired a missile that would pass through the skies.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So we definitely want to spend some time this morning talking about North Korea maybe - maybe - testing a hydrogen bomb. But let's start with some news out of the White House last night on immigration.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Updated at 4:00 p.m. ET Sunday:

North Korea claims it has again tested a hydrogen bomb underground and that it "successfully" loaded it onto the tip of an intercontinental ballistic missile, a claim that if true, crosses a "red line" drawn by South Korea's president last month.

In a state media announcement, North Korea confirmed the afternoon tremors in its northeast were indeed caused by the test of a nuclear device, and that leader Kim Jong Un personally signed off on the test.

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