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.

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.

It's an hour before the big test starts and the skies above Seoul have gone silent. The government grounds aircraft or reroutes flights to keep students from getting distracted during the biggest test of their lives. It's a college entrance exam known as Suneung, and all South Korean high school seniors take it on the same day each year.

The Suneung is a standardized test much like the American SAT, only the five-part, multiple-choice exam takes nearly eight hours to complete, and the importance that Korean society places on it makes it far more intense.

In Taiwan, it's not enough just to get your dog groomed regularly. These days, owners are asking for their four-legged friends to become geometric shapes, like spheres and squares.

A historic meeting is happening this Saturday in Singapore between the two Chinas — that is, the leaders of China and Taiwan. They're meeting for the first time since 1949, when one side lost the Chinese civil war and fled to Taiwan.

On the streets of Taiwan's capital, Taipei, everyone speaks Chinese. And everyone looks Chinese — as 98 percent of the population is ethnically Chinese. But the experiences of those in Taiwan haven't been the same as China's for decades.

Leaders from three powerful Asian countries — China, Japan and South Korea — will sit together in Seoul this weekend, their first summit in several years. The fact they're meeting at all is an achievement.

Just days before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was set to arrive in Seoul, a pair of Chinese and South Korean artists unveiled statues of great symbolism at a Seoul park.

In the South Korean capital, an independent business owned by local artists is taking on Korea's arguably most famous celebrity — the entertainer and musician PSY. The real estate rift is representative of a fast-changing, modern Seoul, where skyrocketing rents in up-and-coming neighborhoods are forcing out longtime tenants and raising concerns about gentrification.

At issue is a cafe and artist residency in Seoul's Hannamdong neighborhood.

Step off a bustling Tokyo street, down a short flight of stairs, and almost instantly, you can wind up in Fort Worth. Or at least it feels that way.

Takeshi Yoshino and his wife opened the tiny tavern called Little Texas 10 years ago as a tribute to the state they love. Yoshino's passion for country music first led him to the Lone Star State more than two decades ago.

President Obama and the Pentagon are hosting South Korea's president, Park Geun-hye, this week. At the White House summit Friday, the two leaders are expected to reaffirm one of America's longest-running alliances in Asia. But the tough policy question they have to tackle is what to do about South Korea's unruly northern neighbor.

For the first time since World War II, Japan can use its military beyond its own borders. This change in interpretation of the nation's Constitution proved highly unpopular, sparking weeks of demonstrations in Tokyo.

"I didn't even care about what democracy looks like. I didn't even care. But now I realize, it actually matters," said Wakako Fukuda, a 20-year-old college student who demonstrated for days against controversial security bills eventually passed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling party.

In Tokyo, workers have started tearing down a Japanese landmark — the Hotel Okura. The Okura is a treasure of 1960s modernist design and has hosted every American president since Richard Nixon, Hollywood royalty and actual royalty.

"The service there is something very special. The lobby attendants, the women in their kimonos, the men in their tuxes," says former U.S. ambassador John Roos, who served in Japan during President Obama's first term. "It's a place that people from all over the world have come to stay and to admire."

North Korea has returned a New York University student and South Korean national who had been detained in Pyongyang since April.

21-year-old Joo Won-moon was in North Korean custody after he crossed the border from China into North Korea, hoping to help strengthen ties between the two Koreas.

"I thought some great event could happen and hopefully that event could have a good effect in the relationship between the North and the South," Joo told CNN in an interview in May.

This summer, NPR is getting crafty in the kitchen. As part of Weekend Edition's Do Try This At Home series, top chefs are sharing their cleverest hacks and tips — taking expensive, exhausting or intimidating recipes and tweaking them to work in any home kitchen.

This week: We go to Seoul, South Korea, to make banchan — those endless small plates of pickles and veggies that traditionally accompany rice or soup.

In Seoul, a gay pride parade 15 years in the running is at the center of heated controversy between LGBT groups and Christian activists, who threaten to do what it takes to stop the marchers.

The growing visibility of South Korea's gays and lesbians has led to louder opposition from church groups in recent years, and this weekend's event has organizers preparing for confrontation.

This week, Japan and South Korea are marking the 50th anniversary of an important treaty — the one that normalized diplomatic relations between the two countries. The two nations signed the landmark 1965 treaty after years of war and the Japanese colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945.

But to celebrate, both countries are having to hide ongoing bitterness.

In South Korea, schools are starting to reopen and hundreds are coming out of quarantine as the Asian MERS outbreak appears to slow down. Middle East respiratory syndrome has infected 150 and killed 16 people in South Korea since mid-May. And as it has become clear in the past week, this health crisis is coming with political and economic costs.

More than 3,400 people are now under quarantine in South Korea's fight to contain an outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome — a deadly virus that can cause severe pneumonia and organ failure.

So far, South Korea has reported 122 MERS cases. And the government is actively tracking the whereabouts of people possibly exposed to the virus.

Chung-ahm is a Buddhist monk who's quarantined in the Jangduk village in southern South Korea.

More than a thousand schools are shut down in South Korea, a response to rising fears over MERS — Middle East respiratory syndrome. The virus has now infected 41 people, of whom four have died, since the South Korean outbreak began May 20th, and it's exposing widespread distrust among South Koreans that their leaders can adequately handle the crisis.

More than 1,300 people in South Korea are under mandatory quarantine as health officials scramble to contain the largest outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, outside the Arabian Peninsula. So far, at least 30 people in South Korea have contracted the virus, which has no known vaccine or cure. Two of them have died since the outbreak began May 20.

South Korea is contending with the biggest Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, outbreak outside the Middle East.

A deadly virus with no known cure — Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS — has infected 13 people in South Korea since mid-May. The fast spread of the disease, from the first case confirmed on May 20 to more than a dozen by Saturday, is prompting criticism of health officials for not moving faster to quarantine suspected patients.

The much-publicized peace walk across the inter-Korean border was really a bus ride. South Korean immigration officials insisted that a group of 30 international women, including American feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem and two Nobel Prize laureates, take a ride across the border for their own safety.

Still, Steinem said, just getting agreement to cross at all — from two nations still technically at war — counts as a win.

"It was an enormous, enormous triumph," Steinem said, after crossing into the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone.

Former Korean Air executive Cho Hyun-ah, or Heather Cho, is out of prison after a four-month stay. If her name and alias don't ring a bell for you, the reason why she was jailed might.

Given the always-present tensions in this region, it's no surprise that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Seoul on Monday was all about security.

"We are not seeking conflict, we are seeking a peaceful resolution of the differences that still exist after so many years on the peninsula," Kerry said.

Just days after grabbing international attention for reportedly testing a submarine-fired ballistic missile, North Korea executed its defense chief on the order of dictator Kim Jong Un. That's according to South Korea's spy agency, which briefed Seoul's lawmakers on the development Wednesday.

Over Tokyo's Rainbow Pride Weekend in late April, Ren married her partner of four years, Yae, on stage before hundreds of Japanese strangers. They were proud to tie the knot and be part of a milestone in Japan and East Asia, a region where same-sex partnerships have never previously been recognized.

Monday marks a different kind of Mother's Day in South Korea. It's Single Mother's Day, an effort by civic groups to raise awareness of Korean society's unwed moms.

Despite Korea's rapid economic advancement, the country has yet to catch up to the notion of nontraditional families. Single moms are still forced into the shadows of society — ostracized by family members, discriminated against at work and all the while, trying to raise children without a network of support.

Toshiba. Sony. Sharp. You know those brand names because they dominated the Japanese economy's global rise in the '80s. But that was 30 years ago. As the Japanese economy stagnates, it's unclear which new companies will replace them.

Doga Makiura is Japanese, and a startup founder. But he's not a startup founder in Japan. He created businesses in other Asian countries instead.

Why not be an entrepreneur in his native country?

New York University student Joo Won-moon, who's a South Korean citizen, says he's healthy and being treated well in North Korean custody, according to an interview he gave CNN on Tuesday.

Joo, 21, acknowledged he crossed the border into North Korea illegally, out of hopes for a "great event" to help strengthen ties between diplomatic rivals North and South Korea.

As Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tours the U.S. this week, he has a state dinner at the White House and will be the first Japanese prime minister to address a joint meeting of Congress. But while he prepares to lay out a vision for the future, not all is well in his own East Asian neighborhood, where the past remains a huge source of tension.