Elise Hu

Where cultures collide, misunderstandings and foolhardy assumptions happen. Just about one week in, these Winter Olympics already have showcased some choice cultural gaffes. Here's hoping this post doesn't require multiple updates.

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."

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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.

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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.

North and South Korea will formally meet for talks on Tuesday for the first time in two years. South Korea's Unification Ministry announced that the meeting will happen next week at the border village of Panmunjom, where the two sides will discuss North Korea's participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics, which South Korea is set to host.

Stopping North Korea's nuclear program is the thorniest foreign policy problem for the U.S. president in the new year, but then again, the same was true a year ago. What has changed in 2017 is North Korea's capability and the United States' approach.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is ready to talk about talking to North Korea.

"We're ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. And we're ready to have the first meeting without precondition," he said, in remarks Tuesday at the Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

This month diners in Toronto were treated to a four-course meal at a pop-up restaurant called June's. The menu included Northern Thai leek and potato soup with a hint of curry, a pasta served with smoked arctic char followed by garlic rapini and flank steak. The entire meal was topped off with a boozy tiramisu for dessert.

In addition to a mouthwatering meal, the chefs at June's also served a message which they wore on their shirts: "Break bread. Smash stigma."

When a municipal lawmaker, Yuka Ogata, brought her 7-month-old baby to her job in a male-dominated legislature, she was met with such surprise and consternation by her male colleagues that eventually, she and the baby were asked to leave. Officials of the Kumamoto Municipal Assembly, of which she's a member, said although there's no rule prohibiting infants, they booted her citing a rule that visitors are forbidden from the floor.

One goal of President Trump's trip to Asia has been to rally America's allies to help put pressure on North Korea. But the mission is complicated by the fact that America's two staunchest allies in East Asia — Japan and South Korea — don't get along well when it comes to issues involving their history.

Much of the friction dates to Japan's occupation of Korea in the first part of the 20th century. Tensions related to that occupation still simmer — even 70 years after South Korea was liberated.

As the #MeToo movement spread across the Internet, with women coming forward sharing tales of sexual assault and harassment, South Korean women were quick to identify.

Overall, violent crime numbers are considered low in South Korea, but in recent years, government statistics have shown a steady uptick in reported cases of sexual violence. And when it comes to gender equality, South Korea ranks poorly — near the bottom of all countries, in fact.

During his visit to Tokyo on Monday, President Trump highlighted a dark moment in Japan's history when he met with families of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean agents. In the 1970s, North Korea abducted at least a dozen Japanese citizens and took them to Pyongyang to train North Korean spies in Japanese language and customs. One abductee was 13.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition now has a two-thirds supermajority in the parliament. That's after capturing more than 300 of the 465 seats in Japan's lower house that were up for grabs on Sunday.

Japanese voters have just days left to decide who they will support in a snap general election set for Sunday.

Japanese politics are usually tame. But this time around, the charismatic governor of Tokyo is adding unexpected elements to the race.

South Korea faces a chronic dirty air problem that makes it one of the most polluted countries in the world. It's common to hear that neighboring China is to blame, but a joint study by NASA and the Korean government has found there's a lot South Korea can do on its own to cut the smog.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has weighed in on the heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, with a personal analysis of President Trump's Tuesday speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

Trump's speech, which was notable for its apocalyptic rhetoric — it vowed to "totally destroy" North Korea and its 25 million people if the United States had to defend itself and its allies — aroused greater fears of military miscalculation that could lead to catastrophe.

In his latest tweet about North Korea, President Trump gave leader Kim Jong Un a new nickname — "Rocket Man" — and seems to indicate he thinks sanctions on the country are working: "Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad!" Trump wrote.

But are they, really? And what, if anything, could that tell us about the North Korean economy right now?

Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET Thursday

Japanese and South Korean officials have confirmed another missile test by North Korea Friday morning local time. This is the 15th North Korean missile test this year and the first to come after Pyongyang tested its most powerful nuclear bomb yet.

North Korea's neighbor of Japan is growing more alarmed by Pyongyang's advancing nuclear program, especially after a North Korean missile flew over the Japanese island of Hokkaido last week. It has led many residents to rethink the threat, even though they acknowledge they're largely powerless in this high-stakes geopolitical tussle.

Millions of residents in northern Japan got an early morning wake-up call last Tuesday, with a government text message just after 6 a.m. saying North Korea fired a missile that would pass through the skies.

Updated at 4:00 p.m. ET Sunday:

North Korea claims it has again tested a hydrogen bomb underground and that it "successfully" loaded it onto the tip of an intercontinental ballistic missile, a claim that if true, crosses a "red line" drawn by South Korea's president last month.

In a state media announcement, North Korea confirmed the afternoon tremors in its northeast were indeed caused by the test of a nuclear device, and that leader Kim Jong Un personally signed off on the test.

A South Korean court's decision Friday to sentence Lee Jae-yong, the de facto leader of Samsung, to five years in prison on corruption charges is reverberating across the country. The nation's economy and Samsung's fortunes have been inextricably linked for decades. Now both face questions about what they'll look like going forward.

A court in South Korea has found the de facto leader of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, guilty in a corruption case involving South Korea's former president. The court in Seoul sentenced the billionaire Lee to five years in prison on a string of corruption charges, including bribery, embezzlement and perjury. Here's what you need to know:

What's Lee going to jail for?

North Korea is issuing fresh threats against the United States as a 10-day computer-based military exercise gets under way on the Korean peninsula. It's an annual joint drill between American and South Korean forces, but this year, it comes following a bitter back-and-forth between North Korea and U.S. President Donald Trump.

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