WCBE

Lauren Frayer

Watching footage of April's military parades in North Korea — with soldiers marching in formation to patriotic tunes — Lee So-yeon recalls all the steps. She was once one of those soldiers.

The daughter of a university professor, Lee, now 41, grew up in North Korea's North Hamgyong province. But when famine devastated the country in the 1990s, women — including Lee — volunteered for the military in droves, often for the food rations.

A liberal human rights lawyer born to North Korean refugees has won South Korea's presidential election with a promise to improve the economy and hold talks with the nuclear-armed North.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In 2009, a close aide to former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun, who had left office a year earlier, took to a podium on live TV. He looked pale and distraught.

He announced that the former president had taken his own life.

It was a dramatic moment in South Korea. It was also when South Koreans first got to know the man who looks likely to be their next president: Moon Jae-in, that former presidential aide.

Next to a river flowing from lush green hills, Lim Sun-bun, 64, tills her land — onions, garlic, potatoes and peppers.

She's lived in rural Seongju county, about 130 miles from Seoul in the southeastern region of the Korean Peninsula, all her life. It's a quiet, conservative, agricultural place, famous for growing melons.

But this past winter, Lim started hearing U.S. helicopters overhead.

"They fly low, and it's scary," she says. "No one asked us if we want to host this U.S. base. I'm worried about contamination of this river — our livelihood."

With tensions rising over North Korea's nuclear program, you might expect panic in South Korea — air raid drills or schoolchildren climbing under their desks, Cold-War-style.

But I found an altogether different scene in the capital, Seoul, when I arrived last week: parade floats and pop music.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

At a pro-U.S. rally in central Seoul over the weekend, supporters of impeached South Korean President Park Geun-hye chanted for the destruction of their enemy, North Korea. They've formed an encampment outside City Hall, where they express support for Park and the U.S., and criticize left-wing politicians.

Park was removed from office in March, a first in South Korea's history. She goes on trial Tuesday for corruption, and faces life in prison if convicted. On May 9, there's a presidential election to replace her.

Just six years after Portugal's 2011 financial bailout sparked protests and sent the country's young people abroad in search of work, the country is experiencing an economic revival.

Mario Mouraz was one of those who left Portugal looking for work. Now, after three years abroad, he's back, selling his own software to Lisbon hotels in the middle of a tourist boom.

Gandelina Damião, 78, is permanently hunched, carrying her sorrow. She lost three children to heroin in the 1990s.

A quarter century ago, her cobblestone lane, up a grassy hill from Lisbon's Tagus River, was littered with syringes. She recalls having to search for her teenagers in graffitied stone buildings nearby, where they would shoot up.

"It was a huge blow," Damião says, pointing to framed photos on her wall of Paulo, Miguel and Liliana. "I was a good mother. I never gave them money for drugs. But I couldn't save them."

Every rush hour, bumper-to-bumper traffic belches out diesel fumes along Madrid's Gran Via, a six-lane artery that bisects the Spanish capital. Art Deco facades line the grand boulevard.

But they're blackened with soot.

"The pollution hurts my eyes, and I can feel it in my throat," says commuter María Villallega, 48, who lives in the city center and walks to work. "I don't own a car myself, and I'll be happy when they're not allowed here anymore. We need to protect the planet, and ourselves."

In recent years, Spain has had a devastating economic crash, an influx of migrants and corruption scandals that left people fed up with politicians. All these factors might make Spain fertile ground for the sort of right-wing, anti-immigrant political parties gaining ground in other parts of Europe. But unlike much of the continent, Spain has no such far-right movement.

Why?

On a mild, sunny afternoon, hordes of tourists stroll down Barcelona's famous tree-lined pedestrian avenue, La Rambla. They love it — the weather, the tapas, the laid-back bohemian vibe. One tourist from Australia says he's visited Barcelona 12 times in 10 years.

But the city doesn't always love them back.

In January, thousands of Barcelona residents marched down La Rambla and "occupied" the entrance to a hotel there, to protest the volume of tourists and gentrification in the city.

At the height of Spain's economic crisis a few years ago, protesters used to form human chains around houses to prevent authorities from serving eviction papers to homeowners who'd fallen behind on their mortgages.

Often at the center of the crowd, with a megaphone, was Ada Colau.

On a frigid winter night, a man wearing two coats shuffles into a brightly lit brick restaurant in downtown Madrid. Staff greet him warmly; he's been here many times. The maître d' stamps his ID card, and the hungry man selects a table with a red tablecloth, under a big brass chandelier.

The man, Luis Gallardo, is homeless — and so are all the diners, every night, at the city's Robin Hood restaurant. Its mission is to charge the rich and feed the poor. Paying customers at breakfast and lunch foot the bill for the restaurant to serve dinner to homeless people, free of charge.

If you book a tour of old-fashioned Holland, the guide may take you to Volendam. It's a picturesque village north of Amsterdam, with cobblestone streets, tulips and a little old lady selling the local delicacy, smoked eels, from a kiosk at the end of the pier.

Volendam is a small but prosperous place, with waterfront homes and sailboats tied up at the docks. There's almost full employment, and very few immigrants. About a dozen people NPR stopped on the street all used the same words to describe their town: Hard-working. Traditional. A good place to raise kids.

Sylvana Simons got her start as a soul music VJ on the Dutch version of MTV. She went on to anchor the evening news in the Netherlands, and performed on the local version of Dancing with the Stars.

Carola Garcia-Calvo spends her days poring over Islamic State propaganda. It's part of her job as a global terrorism analyst at Madrid's Elcano Royal Institute, a think tank.

Recently, she has noticed a shift.

After one of the founders of Corona beer died last summer at age 98, some news went viral: In his will, he'd apparently left his fortune to the tiny, hardscrabble village in northern Spain where he was born. Each resident — mostly retired farmers and miners of meager means — would receive more than $2 million.

Spain's national art museum, the Prado, has been around nearly 200 years and has one of the world's biggest collections of Renaissance and Baroque art.

But only now has it devoted a solo exhibition to a female artist: the 17th century Flemish painter Clara Peeters.

Jewish women sing songs of worship as they march arm in arm with male supporters through an ultra-Orthodox area of Jerusalem's Old City.

They're from a group called Women of the Wall, which lobbies for women to be allowed to pray, sing and read the Bible aloud at the Western Wall, the most important site for Jewish prayer. They hold these marches about once a month, and they often get heckled. Today is no different.

It looks like Surf City, USA: White sand beaches that stretch for miles, sunshine, a soft breeze and some pretty gnarly waves.

But this is not California. It's the Gaza Strip. This coastal Palestinian territory is more famous for conflict with Israel. Visitors have to pass through military checkpoints to enter the strip, and Israeli drones often buzz overhead. There are piles of rubble from years of war.

But Gaza also has a 25-mile Mediterranean coast and a small local surf scene.

Thousands of teenagers swoon — Arabs and Jews alike — as Tamer Nafar takes the stage. He's a member of Israel's Palestinian Arab minority, a founding member of the Palestinian hip-hop group DAM — and he sings in Arabic.

At this concert last month in northern Israel, part of a multicultural gathering on the sidelines of the Haifa Film Festival, where Israeli musicians of Ethiopian and Indian descent are also performing, "I'm not political," he raps.

Huddled over a hot griddle in the back of his food truck, Abdel Rahman Rahim al-Bibi doesn't hold back on the curry powder. He's frying up shish taouk — a spicy chicken kebab dish popular in the Middle East.

Aromas waft down the block, and a line forms on the city sidewalk next to al-Bibi's truck — office workers popping out for a quick bite, a mother and her two children, and a law student on his way home from the gym.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Beef cheeks sizzle in a frying pan. Oysters float in melon puree. And culinary students from all over the world huddle in silent rapture around a stove in central London.

Food gods are in their midst.

The Roca brothers — Joan, Josep and Jordi — are the chef-proprietors of El Celler de Can Roca, a restaurant in northeast Spain that's among the top-rated in the world. To international foodies, the Rocas are rock stars of haute cuisine.

In a muddy field in northern England's Lake District, more than 20,000 people are camping out at a four-day outdoor music festival called Kendal Calling. They jam along with their favorite bands. Some people wear outlandish costumes: There are superheroes, Indian chiefs and a naked guy wearing only transparent plastic wrap. There's dancing, drinking and occasionally, some illicit drug use.

A five-hour drive southwest of Madrid, I pull into a tiny town square filled with songbirds and an outsized Catholic church — where Eduardo Sousa and Diego Labourdette are waiting.

They're an odd couple. Sousa is a jovial fifth-generation Spanish farmer. Labourdette is a soft-spoken academic — an ecologist and migratory bird expert — who teaches at a university in Madrid. But they're in business together — in the foie gras business.

It may be cloudy and cold, with stones rather than sand underfoot, but the English seaside could get an unexpected boost this summer — courtesy of the Brexit.

Britain's June vote to leave the European Union has depressed the value of the British pound, and is likely to make Britons' airline tickets more expensive for summer vacations. So many are opting for "staycations" instead.

"In my circle of friends, I suspect many people will stay in the U.K. as opposed to going abroad," says Matthew Kirk, 42, who works in IT in London.

The town of Crawley, about 30 miles south of London, has been inhabited since Roman times. It grew substantially after World War II, absorbing people from bombed-out parts of the capital. There's a 13th century church and an old stagecoach inn that dates to 1615. The latest census figures show most of the roughly 100,000 people registered as living in Crawley are white and British-born.

But a stroll around town reveals a different picture.

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