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.


3:42 am
Fri November 20, 2015

There's An Asian Refugee Crisis, Too, And Obama Plans To Spotlight It

Rohingya migrants ride on a truck as they are transferred from a detention facility to a naval base on Langkawi Island, Malaysia, in May. Many Rohingya migrants have fled Myanmar in the past year, seeking sanctuary elsewhere in southeast Asia. President Obama is scheduled to meet with migrants Saturday in Malaysia.
Vincent Thian AP

Originally published on Fri November 20, 2015 1:07 pm

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.

Read more
12:53 pm
Wed November 18, 2015

Malaysian Leader Faces Corruption Scandal As He Prepares To Meet Obama

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak waves the Malaysian flag during National Day celebrations on Aug. 31. He has faced widespread criticism and protests over allegations that huge sums disappeared from a government-owned investment fund.
Joshua Paul AP

Originally published on Thu November 19, 2015 4:44 pm

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.

Read more
12:01 pm
Thu November 12, 2015

Even The Planes Stop Flying For South Korea's National Exam Day

Younger students cheer on high school seniors as they head to the all-important college entrance exam on Thursday. As usual, police offered escorts for students who were running late.
Elise Hu NPR

Originally published on Thu November 12, 2015 7:28 pm

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.

Read more
4:49 am
Tue November 10, 2015

For Taiwanese Dogs, Being Square Is Stylish

Tang Xiong Xiong, a Bichon Frise, came into the salon as a ball of fluff and emerged with her head shaped like a square. "She's getting used to it," says her owner.
Elise Hu NPR

Originally published on Tue November 10, 2015 7:41 pm

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.

Read more
5:25 am
Thu November 5, 2015

As Taiwan Gears Up For Elections, China, As Always, Looms Large

Taiwanese presidential front-runner Tsai Ing-wen's party has called for independence from China in the past. This time around, it's signaling pragmatism.
Elise Hu NPR

Originally published on Thu November 5, 2015 2:33 pm

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.

Read more
The Two-Way
1:54 am
Wed November 4, 2015

Chinese, Taiwanese Leaders Will Meet For First Time In More Than 60 Years

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou heads to Singapore this weekend for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Sam Yeh AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 4, 2015 1:14 am

The presidents of China and Taiwan are scheduled to meet on Saturday, the only such meeting since the civil war ended in 1949.

The meeting will take place in Singapore. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou will discuss how to improve relations but Taiwan says no agreements are expected.

Read more
6:37 am
Sat October 31, 2015

For China, Japan And S. Korea, Just Meeting Is An Accomplishment

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye walk to their seats for the start of a trilateral meeting with the U.S. in 2014. Japan and Korea's leaders have yet to meet one-on-one.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Sun November 1, 2015 9:38 am

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.

Read more
5:12 am
Wed October 21, 2015

Korea's Most Famous Entertainer Is Now Its Most Infamous Landlord

Rapper PSY owns real estate in Seoul, including a property at the center of a legal dispute.
Ethan Miller Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 27, 2015 12:49 pm

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.

Read more
10:51 am
Mon October 19, 2015

Finding A Little Texas ... In The Heart Of Tokyo

It's a basement bar in Tokyo, but patrons of Little Texas say the place feels like it's part of the Lone Star State.
Elise Hu NPR

Originally published on Mon October 19, 2015 6:35 pm

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.

Read more
12:05 pm
Thu October 15, 2015

For South Korea-U.S. Summit, The Big Question Is Still North Korea

U.S. and South Korean soldiers of the combined 2nd Infantry Division train at Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu, South Korea.
Elise Hu NPR

Originally published on Fri October 16, 2015 10:11 pm

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.

Read more
10:43 am
Wed October 14, 2015

Japan Can Now Send Its Military Abroad, But Will It?

Demonstrators rally against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's controversial security bills in front of the National Diet in Tokyo in September. The bills, which passed, will allow Japan to send its troops overseas for the first time since World War II. However, the likelihood of Japanese involvement in a foreign war appears quite small.
Kazuhiro Nogi AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri October 16, 2015 2:59 pm

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.

Read more
5:10 am
Mon October 12, 2015

Workers Are Tearing Down Tokyo's Hotel Okura, And History's Going With It

The entrance to the main building of Japan's iconic Hotel Okura in Tokyo. An outcry from architectural preservationists couldn't stop the demolition to make way for a high-rise tower.
Yoshikazu Tsuno AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon October 12, 2015 12:21 pm

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."

Read more
The Two-Way
1:34 am
Mon October 5, 2015

North Korea Releases Detained NYU Student To South Korea

A screen grab from Joo Won-moon's interview with CNN from Pyongyang in May.

Originally published on Mon October 5, 2015 5:16 am

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.

Read more
4:30 pm
Mon July 6, 2015

Hacking Team Breach Reveals Firm Sold Spying Tools To Repressive Regimes

Originally published on Tue July 7, 2015 3:23 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



Read more
The Salt
7:57 am
Sun July 5, 2015

Do Try This At Home: 3 Korean Banchan (Side Dishes) In One Pot

Dan Gray is a restaurateur and food blogger in Seoul, South Korea.
Elise Hu NPR

Originally published on Sun July 5, 2015 12:05 pm

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.

Read more
5:04 am
Fri June 26, 2015

A Showdown Looms At South Korea's Gay Pride Parade

A religious activist is carried away by police after he tried to stop a gay pride parade in Seoul last year. Christian activists are planning to disrupt the parade again this year.
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri June 26, 2015 9:40 am

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.

Read more
2:41 pm
Tue June 23, 2015

Best Frenemies: Japan, Korea Mark 50th Anniversary Despite Rivalry

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (left) speaks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at their meeting in Tokyo. The two countries are marking the 50th anniversary of establishing relations. While leaders in both countries stressed the importance of the ties, a bitter history continues to strain the relationship.
Issei Kato AP

Originally published on Wed June 24, 2015 8:59 am

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.

Read more
5:35 am
Sun June 14, 2015

MERS Is A Health Crisis With Political And Economic Costs

A medical staff member wearing a protective suit waits to enter an isolation ward for patients with Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, in South Korea.
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 16, 2015 2:05 pm

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.

Read more
Goats and Soda
7:13 pm
Wed June 10, 2015

Creepy Or Comforting? South Korea Tracks Smartphones To Curb MERS

A woman on a street in Seoul checks her cellphone. The government is ramping up efforts to control an outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome by monitoring the smartphones of those under quarantine.
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu June 11, 2015 8:55 am

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.

Read more
Goats and Soda
3:35 am
Fri June 5, 2015

South Korea's MERS Crisis Exposes Public Distrust Of Leaders

South Korean school students put on face masks during a special class on the MERS virus at an elementary school in Seoul.
Jung Yeon-je AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 7:58 am

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.

Read more
Goats and Soda
5:03 am
Wed June 3, 2015

Classes Canceled, 1,300 Quarantined In S. Korea's Scramble To Stop MERS

Since the first case on May 20, confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, have swelled to at least 30 in South Korea.
Chung Sung-Jun Getty Images

Originally published on Wed June 3, 2015 7:59 am

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.

Read more
Goats and Soda
4:19 pm
Tue June 2, 2015

South Koreans Mask Up In The Face Of MERS Scare

A South Korean walks through a market in Seoul wearing a mask. South Korean President Park Geun-Hye scolded health officials over their "insufficient" response to an outbreak of the MERS virus.
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu June 4, 2015 4:51 pm

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

Read more
Goats and Soda
6:44 am
Sat May 30, 2015

South Korea Struggles To Contain Deadly MERS Virus' Spread

In this photo from 2014, passengers walk past the Middle East respiratory syndrome quarantine area at Manila's International Airport in the Phillipines. The virus is now raising public concern in South Korea.
Aaron Favila AP

Originally published on Tue June 2, 2015 4:56 pm

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.

Read more
The Two-Way
5:34 am
Sun May 24, 2015

Controversy Follows As Activists Cross North-South Korean Border

Gloria Steinem and South Korean peace activists march along a military fence at a checkpoint after crossing the border separating North and South Korea.
Jung Yeon-Je AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue May 26, 2015 10:53 am

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.

Read more
The Two-Way
4:01 am
Fri May 22, 2015

Korean Air 'Nut Rage' Executive Freed From Prison

Former Korean Air executive Cho Hyun-Ah, after being released by a Seoul appeals court.
Jung Yeon-je AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 22, 2015 2:50 pm

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.

Read more
The Two-Way
3:47 am
Mon May 18, 2015

In Seoul, Kerry Calls N. Korea Provocations 'Egregious,' 'Reckless'

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hold a joint news conference following meetings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon May 18, 2015 10:52 am

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.

Read more
All Tech Considered
5:24 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

She's Almost Real: The New Humanoid On Customer Service Duty In Tokyo

Shoppers view and take photographs of humanoid robot "Chihira" at the information reception desk of Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo.
Chris McGrath Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 15, 2015 4:15 pm

The latest robot sensation in Japan is so lifelike that when she was on the floor of a Tokyo department store recently, she was confused for a human being. The new humanoid's name is Aiko Chihira, and she was working in customer service, clad in a traditional silk kimono.

Read more
The Two-Way
8:28 am
Wed May 13, 2015

Spy Agency: North Korea Executes Its Defense Chief With Anti-Aircraft Guns

A man watches a television showing news coverage of the reported execution of North Korea's defense minister, Hyon Yong Chol, at a railway station in Seoul on Wednesday.
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 9:22 am

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.

Read more
2:21 pm
Mon May 11, 2015

The First Place In East Asia To Welcome Same-Sex Marriage

Yae and Ren were married during Tokyo's Rainbow Pride Weekend in April. One Tokyo ward, or neighborhood, has recognized same-sex marriages, becoming the first place in Japan — or anywhere in East Asia — to do so.
Elise Hu NPR

Originally published on Sun May 17, 2015 8:10 pm

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.

Read more
4:16 am
Mon May 11, 2015

South Korea's Single Moms Struggle To Remove A Social Stigma

On Sunday, about 70 marchers gathered at Seoul's City Hall Square to raise attention for South Korea's single moms. The annual event is in its fifth year.
Elise Hu NPR

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 10:40 am

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.

Read more