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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.

Something curious is happening to North Korean officials abroad. A growing number of diplomats and other North Koreans working for the regime overseas are defecting from their posts.

At least, it certainly seems that way if you are following the South Korean media.

Japan's emperor is hinting he wants to leave the Chrysanthemum Throne. 82-year-old Emperor Akihito gave a rare televised address Monday — only his second in history — in which he reflected on his advancing age, the tough daily schedule of his ceremonial post and the toll it was taking on his health.

The stabbing death of a young woman in a Seoul subway station and the gang rape of a teacher have stirred intense public debate about the status of women in South Korea.

By most measures, South Korea is a modern country with one of the largest economies in the world. But it has catching up to do when it comes to gender equality, and the recent events have burst open long-festering issues surrounding societal attitudes about women.

In Japan, the world's third largest economy, the Brexit means more bad news for a country already struggling with its finances.

Following the British vote to leave the European Union, the Japanese stock market on Friday saw the largest single day drop since the year 2000 (though it did rebound a bit on Monday).

North Korea test-fired two ballistic missiles on Wednesday, the latest in a string of launches that defy a United Nations ban. South Korea's Defense Ministry says the first missile failed not long after it was launched from Wonsan, on North Korea's east coast. The second appears to have flown a distance of 250 miles and reached an altitude of 620 miles before falling into the Sea of Japan, South Korea says.

There's a summer camp on every theme these days, even North Korea. South Korea's twist on extracurricular enrichment is called Unification Leaders Camp, and it's a government-sponsored getaway dedicated to schooling South Korean youngsters about their neighbors to the north.

The conversations in Beijing at high-level talks between the U.S. and China are quite serious. Leaders are covering a lot of ground — everything from climate change to currency, even outer space. But the language used in these discussions? Rather colorful.

The U.S. and China are the two largest economies in the world — and interdependent in a host of ways. But as leaders from both countries start annual high-level talks in Beijing, disagreements over how China does business are creating some trust issues in the relationship.

"You might want to think of the US China relationship as kind of like an arranged marriage," says Arthur Kroeber, a Beijing-based economist and author of China's Economy: What You Need to Know.

Minhae Kim didn't check air pollution levels before bringing her one-year-old to Seoul's Yongsan Family Park.

Perhaps she should have. On this day — and on most days this spring — the measures of the most dangerous kind of pollution in Seoul exceed the World Health Organization's recommended limit. And Korea ranks near the very bottom for air quality in Yale University's latest 180-country Environmental Performance Index.

"Seventy-one years ago, on a bright, cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed," President Obama said Friday, in the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to Hiroshima, Japan.

In 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb used in warfare on that city, killing an estimated 140,000 people. A second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. Within weeks, Japan surrendered, ending the war in the Pacific Theater.

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.

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.

What started out as a budget tour to Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, has stretched into an extended stay for 21-year-old University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier. State media reported Wednesday that North Korea's highest court convicted Warmbier of subversion and sentenced him to 15 years of prison and hard labor.

The offense? According to an apparent confession, Warmbier tried to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel.

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