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.

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.

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.

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.

North Korea fired a pair of medium-range ballistic missiles from its east coast into the Sea of Japan at about 6 a.m. local time, according to South Korea's military. The first missile flew about 500 miles.

This follows the launch of two short-range missiles last week. A senior defense department official says neither missile was a threat to the U.S. or regional allies, but that the launches violate multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.

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.

The five-game clash pitting man against machine is over, with Google's artificial intelligence program winning the series.The program — called AlphaGo — took four of five games against Korean Lee Sedol, an 18-time world champion of the board game Go.

"I feel a little regrettable because I believe that there is more that a human being could have shown in a match against artificial intelligence," Lee said following the final match.

For Natsumi Miyakawa, a young resident of Japan's Tohoku region, March 11, 2011, should have been a day to celebrate. It was her junior high school graduation day.

Instead, there was chaos and sadness. "Everything was scary," she recalls.

Temporary is lasting a long time for evacuees in neat blocks of prefabricated housing in Fukushima city. The wood siding on their tiny homes looks new. But these trailers are stretching into their fifth year of use.

Saki Sato, 77, shows me around her home, where she lives alone in a kind of limbo. Each room is about the size of a king-size mattress.

About 4,000 soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas, have landed in South Korea in the past few weeks, to serve along the border of the two Koreas. As policy makers contend with the thorny security challenges of the region, soldiers are adjusting to more day-to-day challenges.

Fresh off the planes from central Texas, the men and women of the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team say it's the snow that made the most noticeable first impression.

In the central Japanese mountain village of Damine, children have kept up an unbroken tradition of performing Japan's classical theater, kabuki, year after year for more than three centuries. But as people age or leave for opportunities in cities, the village is running out of performers.

As the international community grapples with how best to stymie North Korea's nuclear development, South Korea is making one move on its own. It's shutting down the last remaining vestige of inter-Korean cooperation, the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

The special zone, located north of the border just six miles inside of North Korea, employs an estimated 55,000 North Koreans. South Korea's government and industries pay to operate the park. A total of 124 South Korean companies run businesses and factories there, mostly making goods like shoes and clothing.

Rescue efforts continue in southern Taiwan, three days after a powerful magnitude-6.4 earthquake shook the island and killed more than three dozen people. But hopes of finding survivors were fading. Early Monday, more than 100 people were still unaccounted for from the Golden Dragon apartment complex, the center of most rescue efforts.

This weekend, there were countless stories of death — and life.

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

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

On the fifth floor of South Korea's sprawling National Library is a place far more fascinating than its name suggests: The North Korea Information Center.

Here you can read every edition of North Korea's national newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, dating to its first publication. Or peruse a collection of 100,000 North Korean books and videos — fiction, nonfiction and the complete teachings of the autocratic dynasty that runs the country.

North Korean state media said Friday that the country has detained a U.S. student from the University of Virginia for "anti-republic activities."

The state-run agency, KCNA, said the student, Otto Frederick Warmbier, entered North Korea as a tourist but "with a goal to wreck the foundation of state unity ... under the manipulation of the U.S. government."

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul said it was aware of the report.

The University of Virginia's website lists an undergraduate with that name at the McIntire School of Commerce, the university's business school.

On the South Korean side of its 151-mile border with North Korea, banks of loudspeakers are back on, blaring propaganda. It's the South's response to the North's nuclear test last week.

News of a North Korean nuclear test reached the rest of the world in short order, but days after the rogue nation claimed it tested a hydrogen bomb, 17-year-old Jinwoo Ha, in neighboring South Korea, said she hadn't heard.

"Mmmmm, sorry, but I don't quite know about the issue, so can you please explain that?" she said, after being asked for her reaction to the test.

Deciphering events in North Korea often seems more like long-distance psychoanalysis than reporting.

So it's not surprising there's a dearth of hard information about the country's latest nuclear test. In a statement heavy on propaganda and light on details, North Korea claimed it successfully carried out a hydrogen bomb test Wednesday morning.

Japan has made progress recently in getting more women to join the workforce. The latest numbers show a greater percentage of Japanese women work outside the home than American women. But for a rapidly aging and shrinking population, that progress may not be fast enough.

Editor's Note: NPR opened a South Korea bureau in March. Correspondent Elise Hu takes a look at the wonder and the wackiness of life and journalism in East Asia.

Street performers weren't always welcome in Malaysia, but now the government is part of an effort that's literally providing them a stage on which to perform.

Most days, buskers perform in the main train station under Kuala Lumpur's famous Petronas Twin Towers, the pair of skyscrapers that define the city's skyline.

"We're all traveling around. And if we find a spot anywhere, in any country, then we do busking," says Ali Hakim. He's part of a pair of singers we found at the station. They play his native Malay music and covers of more familiar tunes.

The South Korean labor leader holed up in a Buddhist temple to avoid arrest has turned himself in on charges of organizing illegal rallies, ending a 24-day standoff with police. Officers had planned to raid Seoul's top temple, Jogyesa, on Wednesday afternoon, but postponed a move to forcefully enter the temple after negotiations with the head of the Buddhist Jogye order.

Taiwan's millennials are known as the "strawberry generation," and it's not a compliment.

In their own eyes, the millennials are helping to turn the capital city Taipei into something hipper, a place that embraces creativity and innovation. Some have gone as far as calling the city Taiwan's answer to Portland, Ore.

As Europe grapples with its refugee crisis, another one has been unfolding in Southeast Asia. That's where members of a stateless minority called the Rohingya have been taking dangerous journeys by sea in pursuit of a better life. As President Barack Obama swings through Malaysia this weekend, he's putting a spotlight on them.

The next stop on President Obama's Asia trip is Malaysia, a country considered a reliable U.S. ally. But this visit comes just as Malaysia's prime minister, Najib Razak, faces international scrutiny and calls for his ouster over a swirling financial corruption scandal.

It's putting the U.S. in an awkward spot diplomatically.

The web of intrigue involves accusations of backroom deals, political patronage and millions — if not billions — in missing money. It all stems from a government-owned investment fund called 1MDB.

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