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.

Japanese toilets have come a long way from the early 20th century, when many people in Japan still used "squatters," which were built into the floor.

Western toilets became popular after World War II. And today, signature Japanese toilets offer the world's most futuristic and automated technology when nature calls.

In the dense megacities of East Asia, millions of people dwell in high-rises with very little green space. This isn't an ideal setting to raise big dogs or more unusual pets. Cramped quarters aren't great for domesticated pets in general.

South Korea and the U.S. confirm North Korea launched a single ballistic missile at a facility near Sinpo at 6:42 a.m. Wednesday Seoul time (5:42 p.m. Tuesday ET). It landed in the waters near near Japan. U.S. Pacific Command's initial assessments indicate the type of missile was a KN-15 medium-range ballistic missile.

At the height of the Cold War, in the 1960s and beyond, South Korean students were taught — and believed — some startling falsehoods about Communist North Koreans. One of these gained credence and lasted far longer than the Cold War itself.

Over the course of my reporting in Seoul, some interviews with North Korean defectors and older South Koreans have revealed a South Korean notion that North Koreans are really more like ... beasts.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's inaugural trip to East Asia was marred by misunderstandings that arguably could have been avoided had Tillerson followed decades-old practice and spoken for himself — to the State Department press corps aboard his plane.

But there was no State Department press corps aboard his plane.

Tillerson had one reporter along — from a conservative-leaning news site who does not cover the State Department. In another break with tradition, the reporter did not offer a pool report to colleagues on the ground.

The effect?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived in Tokyo to begin a a six-day sweep through Northeast Asia. It's his first trip there as America's top diplomat, and he heads into a region full of challenges, both old and new.

Two people died in demonstrations and frenzy following a historic ruling in South Korea to remove its first female president. The nation's acting president is calling for unity and calm as the impeached former President Park Geun-hye packs her bags.

"Conflicts during demonstrations is not right," said acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn.

South Korea's military says North Korea has test-fired a handful of "unknown projectiles" off its west coast into its east coast waters, further rattling an already uncertain situation on the Korean peninsula under ongoing political drift in Seoul and a new American administration.

Malaysian authorities say initial autopsy results show a chemical weapon — VX nerve agent — was used in the fatal poisoning of Kim Jong Nam, older half-brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un.

VX is an odorless substance that can exist as liquid or gas. It can kill within minutes if it's passed through the skin. It is 10 times more toxic than sarin and classified as a weapon of mass destruction.

South Korea's government says it's convinced the North Korean regime orchestrated the bizarre poisoning death of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"We are observing this pointless and merciless incident with grave concern," the South Korean Unification Ministry said in a statement Sunday.

Updated 11:25 p.m. ET

Malaysian police say they have arrested a second woman in connection with the killing of the North Korean leader's half-brother, Kim Jong Nam. She is 25 years old and a holder of an Indonesian passport. They say she was identified from surveillance TV footage of the airport. Earlier, authorities said they had detained another woman in the death.

It's the stuff of spy novels.

South Korean defense officials and the U.S. Strategic Command say North Korea test-fired a "medium- or intermediate-range" ballistic missile early Sunday morning local time, which flew eastward for about 300 miles from the west coast of North Korea, over the peninsula and landed in the Sea of Japan. This marks the first missile test by the Kim Jong Un regime since October, and the first during the new Donald Trump presidency.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives Thursday in Washington for talks on Friday with Donald Trump, an effort by this longtime Asian ally to get a better read on the way forward with the unpredictable new U.S. president.

President Donald Trump's "America First" pronouncements will frame the first major international trip of his administration this week, as Defense Secretary James Mattis visits South Korea and Japan.

Trump's disruptive approach to foreign policy may challenge an already shaky government in Seoul, Mattis' first stop.

What makes North Korea feel so oppressive? If you ask its highest-ranking defector in decades, the answer is censorship. Thae Yong Ho, who was until last summer a Pyongyang envoy in London, argues that increasing the flow of information into the North is what can sow the seeds of popular discord to bring down the Kim Jong Un regime.

Samsung announced the results of a months-long investigation into why its Galaxy Note 7 phones spontaneously caught fire last summer, pinning the blame on faulty batteries.

The bungled launch led to a recall of 2.5 million devices and losses totaling more than $2 billion. The root cause, according to an internal investigation conducted with the help of outside experts, was battery short circuits.

South Korean judges Thursday denied a request by prosecutors to arrest Jay Y. Lee, the de facto leader of the sprawling Samsung conglomerate, saying there wasn't enough evidence to detain him on bribery charges. Lee is ensnared in South Korea's largest political corruption scandal to date, involving people at the highest levels of business and government.

"We appreciate the fact that the merits of this case can now be determined without the need for detention," Samsung said, in a statement issued after the early morning decision.

Prosecutors in South Korea have requested an arrest warrant for the de facto head of the nation's biggest conglomerate, Samsung, on charges of bribery and embezzlement in connection with a swirling scandal that led to the president's impeachment.

For the first time in Japanese history three women of different political persuasions are in positions that could be stepping stones to the prime minister's office.

It's especially notable in Japan, where women's labor force participation remains among the lowest among developed nations, and gender roles are traditionally-defined.

"Women have not really been coached or mentored or encouraged to take on leadership roles," Kyoto University diplomacy professor Nancy Snow explains. "Also, women aren't allowed [culturally] to often show ambition, to sort of telegraph that."

In South Korea, preparing for the worst has become a routine part of life. Twice a year, the country runs air raid drills in case of an attack by North Korea.

Citywide sirens go off at 3 p.m. in the capital, Seoul. They're supposed to bring the bustling city to a temporary halt. "It's a simulation of what will happen at a time of war," says Jeong Eun-cheon, a spokesman for Seoul's Yongsan district.

When South Korea's mountain town of PyeongChang hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games next year, a white tiger and a black bear, respectively, will serve as mascots. They've been introduced as cuddly icons of Korean history and folklore.

South Korean lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly to impeach their president, Park Geun-hye, who is mired in a corruption scandal and facing a criminal investigation. But the celebration of the impeachment vote may be temporary, as a panel of justices will ultimately decide her fate.

South Korean lawmakers voted 234-56 on Friday to impeach President Park Geun-hye. A constitutional court will now decide whether to remove from office the country's first female leader, who's been mired in a corruption scandal that has paralyzed the country's political system.

The next few days could be significant for South Korea's political future, as an impeachment vote is set for Friday to begin a process of removing the embattled president from office. President Park Geun-hye has been mired in a complicated influence peddling scandal that's brought on weeks of political paralysis and record-sized protests in the streets of Seoul.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye — facing demands for her ouster because of a corruption scandal — announced she is willing to shorten her term at the discretion of the National Assembly and "step down afterwards," throwing an already tumultuous political situation here into more confusion.

Japan has the dubious title of the oldest society in the world, with one in four of its citizens past the age of 65. And while the image of the elderly is typically of sweet grandparents, in Japan, senior citizens are committing petty crimes like shoplifting in bigger numbers than teenagers.

Inside the office of a private security firm in Tokyo are video monitors that take up the entire wall, bisected into 16 boxes showing various camera angles on a nearby business.

As in so many foreign policy issues, there's considerable confusion about what U.S. policy toward North Korea will look like under President-elect Donald Trump. Pyongyang's expanding nuclear capability will not be something he can ignore.

"The likelihood today of a nuclear catastrophe somewhere in the world is greater than it was than during the Cold War — greater than during the Cold War," former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said in Seoul a week after the American election.

A swirling cronyism scandal continues to grip South Korea, where prosecutors announced Sunday that the president is a suspect in a criminal fraud investigation that's already ensnared her close friend and senior aides. President Park Geun-hye made history, becoming the first sitting South Korean president to be a suspect in a criminal investigation.

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