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.

Renewed controversy over heavy American military presence on the Japanese island of Okinawa swirled as President Obama arrived in Japan for the G7 summit. Just a week earlier, a former U.S. Marine allegedly raped and killed a local Okinawa woman, triggering protests on the island.

Populations are shrinking so fast in East Asia that some Japanese and Koreans actually talk about the eventual extinction of their civilizations. To tackle demographic declines driven by low birthrates, the historically homogeneous South Korea is opening itself to more immigrants than ever before.

A once-in-a-generation gathering of the North Korean ruling party is happening in Pyongyang, where leader Kim Jong Un has laid out his plans for the country's future. But the new vision for North Korea — parallel economic and nuclear development — looks a lot like the old one.

In a broadcast shown on state television, Kim spoke to thousands of the ruling party elite for a marathon three hours on Saturday, with occasional interruptions of frenzied applause from the audience.

Editor's note: To take a sample Samsung Aptitude Test, click here or at the end of this story.

For weeks, young people who have already taken plenty of tests found themselves cramming for yet another one: the Samsung Aptitude Test, or SAT.

"Sometimes I feel a little bit nervous, but now I'm OK," says Daewon Kim, who studied about nine hours a day in the lead-up to Samsung's two-hour employment entrance exam.

Tens of thousands of South Koreans compete each year for entry-level jobs at Samsung, the high-tech firm that's considered the country's premier company.

Workers with previous job experience can join the company without taking the test, but Samsung uses the 160-question quiz to help whittle down potential applicants looking to start their careers.

A North Korean military intelligence officer has defected to South Korea, the South's Unification Ministry announced on Monday. While declining to give details, ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee confirmed the man is a colonel and called the defection "meaningful." He is believed to be one of the highest-ranking North Koreans to defect to the South.

Jeong said the defection could be read as a sign of fissure at the top levels of North Korea's regime.

In democratic South Korea, you're free to express your opinion on most topics — except North Korea. Korean-American Shin Eun-mi learned that lesson the hard way. After a few tourist trips to the North, she shared her observations of North Korean people, landscape and culture in two books and several speeches in the South.

"I said, 'North Korean beer tastes good, and the water of North Korean rivers is clean,' " Shin said in a phone interview.

South Korea is a place where appearance really matters. The country's cosmetic surgery prowess is known the world over. It's one of the world's top plastic surgery markets, and by some estimates, more cosmetic procedures are performed here per capita than anywhere else on the planet — mostly facial enhancements such as Botox injections, eyelid jobs or nose jobs.

North Korea watchers haven't been getting much sleep this year.

The Kim Jong Un regime started the year with a literal bang — a nuclear test on Jan. 7, marking its fourth such test in the past decade. That was followed by a rocket launch in February, and claims that it had a miniaturized nuclear warhead.

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