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.

Fleeing war, more than 500 Yemenis arrived earlier this year in an unlikely place — a tiny South Korean resort island. They're hoping to be granted asylum so they can stay in South Korea, but as they wait on the island of Jeju, they've become the target of blistering backlash from South Koreans.

"I love Korea, really," Ebrahim Qaid says. He is one of 561 Yemenis who arrived on Jeju earlier this year through the island's policy of allowing most foreign nationals to enter without getting a visa in advance.

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET Tuesday

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a broad statement Tuesday that calls for a "firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," after their historic summit in Singapore — the first ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

President Trump will meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un next week in Singapore, in an effort to resolve the nuclear threat posed by Pyongyang. But in the lead-up to that summit, the threat the totalitarian regime poses to its 25 million people has not been addressed. It didn't come up either at the inter-Korean summits or during President Trump's White House meeting last week with Kim's lieutenant, Kim Yong Chol.

Around the world, the flurry of diplomatic efforts to salvage the June 12 summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has dominated headlines. But there's one place where it hasn't: North Korea itself.

A North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, met this week with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York, but North Koreans are seeing none of that in their regular 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. national broadcasts.

A topsy-turvy week on the Korean peninsula ended with a secret Saturday summit between the rival Korean leaders, in which North Korea's Kim Jong Un again made a commitment to denuclearization. That's according to his South Korean negotiating partner, President Moon Jae-in, who met on Kim's request. The two reaffirmed previous commitments to inter-Korean cooperation and worked to keep momentum driving toward a U.S.-North Korea summit.

Updated 2:55 a.m. ET Sunday

Hours after a surprise meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas aimed at shoring up diplomacy, President Trump seemed to keep hope alive for a summit with Kim Jong Un to go ahead as planned on June 12 in Singapore.

Speaking at the White House Saturday evening, Trump said plans for the summit were "going along very well." He said meetings were ongoing and that the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula "would be a great thing for North Korea."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

To get a sense of how today's announcement is playing in South Korea, let's turn now to NPR's Elise Hu in Seoul. Hi, Elise.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: Hey there, Ari.

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in is in Washington to meet with President Trump, as plans for a high-stakes summit next month between the U.S. president and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hit some turbulence.

With North Korea's threats to back away from the talks, South Korea's leader — who has long favored engagement rather than confrontation with Pyongyang — is having to do some diplomacy to keep both the U.S. and North Korea interested in talking.

Updated at 1 p.m. ET Wednesday

North Korea said it is canceling high-level talks with South Korea planned for Wednesday at their shared border area because of ongoing military exercises between the South and the United States.

The talks were scheduled for Seoul and Pyongyang to follow up on the agreement struck by the two Korean leaders at their historic summit last month.

Congratulated for an apparent breakthrough in relations between South Korea and North Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said, "It's President Trump who should receive the Nobel Prize."

Updated at 5:05 a.m. ET

Following a historic meeting between North Korea's Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the leaders appeared side by side to make an extraordinary announcement: The two nations — technically in a state of war for more than six decades — would work toward a permanent peace treaty and the elimination of nuclear weapons from the peninsula.

South Koreans have painstakingly planned out the details ahead of North Korea's Kim Jong Un and South Korea's Moon Jae-in's summit at their shared border Friday, the culmination of a flurry of diplomacy over the past few months.

Confronting the North Korea threat takes partners, and Japan is among America's most reliable allies in Asia. But lately, Japan is feeling increasingly left out.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to do something about it, meeting with President Trump in person on Tuesday in Mar-a-Lago, Fla. It's happening just as Abe faces roiling political problems at home.

A court in Seoul has found former South Korean President Park Geun-hye guilty on a raft of charges in the sprawling corruption case that led to her impeachment.

She has been sentenced to 24 years in prison — effectively a life sentence for the 66-year-old. Park was also fined nearly $17 million.

When it comes to inter-Korean relations, pop music — and politics — work in concert. North Korea sent a musical delegation to South Korea for the Winter Olympics last month.

Now it's the other side's turn. South Korean solo singers and group acts will head north this weekend for the first time in more than a decade.

South Korea's 51 million people have been under existential threat for so long that they've largely normalized the risks posed to them by North Korea. After all, Seoul has been the target of Pyongyang's espionage plots and tunnels and artillery since Korea split in two more than 60 years ago.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Updated at 11:10 a.m. ET.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hosted a dinner to welcome delegates from South Korea on Monday, in a visit Seoul hopes will pave the way for talks between North Korea and the United States.

The 10-member delegation includes a top national security adviser and spy chief — marking the first time South Korean officials are reported to have met the North Korean leader since he took power in 2011.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

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."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, 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.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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.

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.

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