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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.

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?

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.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So we definitely want to spend some time this morning talking about North Korea maybe - maybe - testing a hydrogen bomb. But let's start with some news out of the White House last night on immigration.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The U.N. Security Council is currently holding an emergency meeting to discuss North Korea's latest nuclear test. Here's U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

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.

The tiny U.S. territory of Guam came under the international spotlight after North Korea said Wednesday that it's studying whether to launch a missile test toward the island. President Trump responded by escalating the rhetoric.

"Let's see what he does with Guam," Trump said of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. "If he does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before what will happen in North Korea."

The escalating threats between the U.S. and North Korea have thrown the tiny U.S. territory of Guam into the headlines. North Korea this week threatened to create an "enveloping fire" around the strategically important Pacific island, located about 2,100 miles to its southeast.

But life here seems to go on as usual.

At Mosa's Joint, in Guam's capital Hagatna, Thursday happy hour lasts until 8 p.m. The place fills up fast with locals and military personnel, "kind of a little bit of everything," says Monique Genereux, who opened the bar and restaurant a few years ago.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Let's get the view now from a tiny U.S. territory living under threat. The Pacific island of Guam is a potential target of North Korea, which says it's drawing up plans to fire four missiles into the waters near the island.

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STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

Following North Korea's second test of an intercontinental ballistic missile last Friday, President Trump didn't hold back: "I am very disappointed in China," he tweeted. Then he brought up China's trade surplus with the U.S., saying despite it, "They do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk."

On Monday, China's official news agency, Xinhua, responded in an editorial: "Emotional venting cannot become a guiding policy for solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula."

In his North Korean mining town, Kim Hak-min loved getting his hands on electronics so much that he became the go-to guy to fix his neighbors' watches, TV's and radios. It earned the nickname "Repair Boy."

"I remember first opening up an electric toy when I was eight years old, figuring out how it worked and clutching it when I went to sleep," Kim recalls.

But by 2011, Kim had yet to encounter a smartphone.

"When I was in North Korea the only phones I saw where 2G and they were flip phones," Kim says.

Early Friday morning on the Korean peninsula, North Korea launched its second intercontinental ballistic missile inside of a month. Nuclear experts say the latest test improved on than the last one, with a range that could reach most of the continental United States.

South Korea is one of the world's richest nations, a modern place with trends changing as fast as its Internet speeds. But when it comes to some social issues, the country has been slow to change — especially for gays and lesbians.

While there are shows of support — this month, a record 85,000 people turned up at Seoul's annual pride festival, for example — recent events indicate South Korea's institutions and political class are only reluctantly tolerating sexual minorities.

If an event is branded as annual but it happens only once, can it still be called annual? This is the case for Pyongyang's "annual" Taedonggang Beer Festival, the second of which was slated to take place during August.

China-based tour company Koryo Tours, which is among the go-to tour groups organizing trips into North Korea, writes on its blog that it was "informed" North Korean organizers have canceled the event.

In South Korea, skin care is considered self-care. Just as you might go to the gym two or three times a week, it's not unusual for a South Korean to visit a facialist at the same frequency.

To cap off this initial season of our Elise Tries video series, I tried nothing at all. Instead, I enlisted a tiny helper. Have a look.

Japan has the world's highest number of people age 65 and older. And a growing number of elderly people there are dying in accidental choking deaths. For the past 10 years, according to Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the vast majority of those deaths have been senior citizens.

North Korea's test of an intercontinental ballistic missile this week has led to global furor and in some cases, fear. But not in North Korea's neighbor to the south.

On the Fourth of July, North Korea marked a milestone by firing an intercontinental ballistic missile that soared high into space before turning around and landing in the sea near Japan. The North's state media said the missile, Hwasong-14, flew 580 miles, reaching an altitude of 1,741 miles, and flew for nearly 40 minutes.

Updated at 7:19 p.m. ET

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed Tuesday that the missile launched by North Korea on Monday was an intercontinental ballistic missile, in a statement in which he condemned the test.

"Testing an ICBM represents a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world," Tillerson said.

Japanese purikura photo booths, which produce selfies that you can decorate and print out, predate Snapchat filters by at least a decade. At about $3.50 a pop, they are still attracting hordes of Tokyo teenagers.

Listen closely to what U.S. officials like to say about America's long security alliance with South Korea, where 28,000 U.S. troops are stationed in bases around the country. Something in the language perpetually pops up:

"America's commitment to defending our allies ... remain[s] ironclad," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in Seoul in February.

The newly elected South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, will arrive at the White House on Thursday for his first meeting with President Trump. The meeting will center on a pressing problem that vexes both countries: North Korea.

The Trump administration calls North Korea's growing weapons capabilities its top foreign policy priority — and will try to make more headway on the issue with its partner, South Korea, which relies on some 28,000 U.S. troops for defense.

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.

South Korea in recent years has become the hot place for beauty product innovation, and it is often called the cosmetic surgery capital of the world.

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.

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