Anthony Kuhn

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.

Kuhn previously served two five-year stints in Beijing, China, for NPR, during which he covered major stories such as the Beijing Olympics, geopolitical jousting in the South China Sea, and the lives of Tibetans, Uighurs, and other minorities in China's borderlands.

He took a particular interest in China's rich traditional culture and its impact on the current day. He has recorded the sonic calling cards of itinerant merchants in Beijing's back alleys, and the descendants of court musicians of the Tang Dynasty. He has profiled petitioners and rights lawyers struggling for justice, and educational reformers striving to change the way Chinese think.

From 2010-2013, Kuhn was NPR's Southeast Asia correspondent, based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Among other stories, he explored Borneo and Sumatra, and witnessed the fight to preserve the biodiversity of the world's oldest forests. He also followed Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, as she rose from political prisoner to head of state.

Kuhn served as NPR's correspondent in London from 2004-2005, covering stories including the London subway bombings and the marriage of the Prince of Wales to the Duchess of Cornwall.

Besides his major postings, Kuhn's journalistic horizons have been expanded by various short-term assignments. These produced stories including wartime black humor in Iraq, musical diplomacy by the New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang, North Korea, a kerfuffle over the plumbing in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Pakistani artists' struggle with religious extremism in Lahore, and the Syrian civil war's spillover into neighboring Lebanon.

Prior to joining NPR, Kuhn wrote for the Far Eastern Economic Review and freelanced for various news outlets, including the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek. He majored in French literature as an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis, and later did graduate work at the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American studies in Nanjing.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is calling for beefing up his country's nuclear and military capabilities, but appears to be leaving open the possibility for negotiation with the U.S., just days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un staked out a hardline position just days ahead of President-elect Joe Biden taking office, calling the United States his country's "biggest enemy," and vowing to advance his country's nuclear arsenal.

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency for the greater Tokyo region, as alarm at rapidly increasing coronavirus case numbers overtook concerns about economic losses. The emergency will take effect Friday, and last until Feb. 7.

As with an earlier state of emergency last April, which was expanded nationwide, the latest restrictions entail no punishments for violators. Residents will simply be asked to avoid nonessential outings, especially at night.

Mistakes were made.

That's according to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who in an address to a ruling party meeting made a frank admission — that the country's policies in the past five years had ended in abject failure.

"Almost all sectors fell a long way short of the set objectives," Kim told thousands of delegates to the Workers' Party's 8th Congress who were seated in a huge auditorium in Pyongyang.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

South Korea, one of the most successful countries in fighting the pandemic, is doing worse. Case numbers are growing during a third wave of infections. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports on the debate over how to respond.

During the pandemic, Japan's government has been subsidizing travel and tourism to juice the economy. After a spike in coronavirus cases, it will now suspend the program for two weeks.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

South Korea is awaiting new social distancing measures, due to take effect Tuesday evening, as earlier measures have failed to bring new coronavirus case numbers down. The government warns of an impending crisis, brought on by a third wave of infections.

New cases reported Monday exceeded 600 for the second day in a row, bringing the total to more than 38,000, with about 550 deaths.

John Lee was not trained for combat, but he eventually found himself in the thick of a pivotal battle in the Korean War.

Lee was a sophomore at Korea University in Seoul when the war broke out in June 1950. He joined the South Korean army and was assigned as an interpreter to the U.S. 1st Marine Division.

At one point later in the war, he was taking cover under a truck, under fire from Chinese troops, on the main road leading away from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, in an area dubbed "Hell Fire Valley."

South Korea's capital recorded its highest-ever number of new coronavirus cases, 291, on Thursday, while nationwide there were 629 cases — the largest total in nine months. Amid criticism of the government's recent handling of the pandemic, it is considering tightening public health restrictions.

That criticism — that the government has been too timid in tacking the current third-wave of infections — follows international praise for South Korea's aggressive response to the initial outbreak in February.

North Korea is taking increasingly harsh measures to stop the coronavirus from entering the country, including executing an official in August who violated anti-virus rules, South Korean intelligence officials told lawmakers on Friday.

After beating back two waves of coronavirus infections — and garnering international praise for its competent handling of the pandemic — South Korea now finds itself fighting a trickier, stealthier uptick in cases, which has forced it to ramp up social distancing quickly.

President-elect Joe Biden reassured Asia-Pacific allies of the U.S. commitment to the region in phone calls Wednesday to the leaders of Australia, Japan and South Korea, attempting to allay concerns built up over four years of the Trump administration's America-first policy.

Despite President Trump's baseless insistence that he won the election, Biden's phone conversations with foreign leaders show that key U.S. allies have acknowledged Biden will be the next president.

The United States' chief allies in East Asia, South Korea and Japan, welcomed Joe Biden's electoral victory over the weekend, expecting that the former vice president will rebuild their decades-old alliances, which have been challenged during four years of unprecedented strain under the Trump administration.

Kim Jong Un began a military parade in Pyongyang on Saturday with what was an unprovocative speech without any mention of the United States. But then, the North Korean leader displayed what appeared to be several new strategic weapons, including some that could potentially hit the U.S. mainland.

In a meeting with foreign ministers from Japan, India and Australia in Tokyo, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged on Tuesday that they strengthen their quartet of democracies to resist an increasingly assertive China.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in sent a message to President Trump on Friday, wishing him and first lady Melania Trump a "swift recovery" after they tested positive for the coronavirus. "We'd also like to send special words of solace and encouragement to your family and U.S. citizens," Moon wrote.

Among South Korea's neighbors, there was little other immediate official reaction to the news that President Trump tested positive for coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he was sorry for the shooting death of a South Korean fisheries official Tuesday in waters near the two countries' maritime border — remarks that suggested a temporary halt to the downward spiral in relations between the two Koreas during a year marked by missile tests and harsh rhetoric from Pyongyang.

Updated at 8:45 a.m. ET

Seoul has condemned its northern neighbor for what it calls the brutal killing of a South Korean fisheries official, who went missing earlier this week near the maritime border between the rival states.

The move is likely to aggravate inter-Korean tensions, which have flared again, after a brief interlude of summit diplomacy in 2018 and 2019.

Yoshihide Suga took over Wednesday as Japan's first new prime minister in almost eight years, replacing the country's longest-serving premier, Shinzo Abe, who stepped down citing health concerns.

Suga, 71, was sworn in by Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace after parliament elected him as prime minister.

Suga was Abe's chief Cabinet secretary and head government spokesman. Now he pledges to forge ahead with his predecessor's key policies, including his efforts to jump-start the economy and to revise Japan's postwar constitution, which restricts the use of its military.

A decade ago, building cleaner Noh Il-soon was in the market for a new church. She had previously moved within Seoul, and when she did, she looked for a local congregation to join.

A missionary introduced her to a Presbyterian church called Sarang Jeil, Korean for "love comes first." Noh says she was immediately captivated by the sermons of the charismatic pastor, Jun Kwang-hoon.

Japan's longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, announced in a press conference Thursday that he is stepping down because of poor health.

Abe, 65, has been in office since 2012. He also served as prime minister for one year beginning in 2006, also citing health as the reason for his resignation. Abe's longevity is noteworthy in a country that sees frequent turnover in its leadership.

After keeping the coronavirus under control for roughly five months, South Korea finds itself on the verge of another major outbreak as COVID-19 cases jump to their highest level since March and the capital region retightens social distancing guidelines.

Updated at 11:30 a.m. ET

To the accompaniment of jangly guitars, a woman wearing glasses, short hair and a red overcoat shows off the landmarks of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. "Every building in Pyongyang is going through general cleaning to shake off winter dust," she says in English in a recent YouTube video.

"Rip apart the defectors, the traitors and the human trash," demonstrators wearing masks and standing in neat rows shouted at a rally in Nampo, North Korea, last month, state media reported.

Similar demonstrations took place around the country last month, aiming to signal dismay at South Korea for allowing defectors to send propaganda leaflets, often floated on balloons, over the border to criticize North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The mayor of South Korea's capital, and a possible future presidential candidate, was found dead after disappearing Thursday morning local time.

A rescue dog found Park Won-soon just after midnight Friday morning in a wooded park northeast of the presidential office, Seoul police official Choi Ik-su told reporters about two hours after the discovery.

Choi said the cause of death is under investigation, but there is no evidence of homicide so far.

South Korea has acknowledged it is permanently keeping data on patients from a previous virus epidemic, worrying privacy advocates that the government is sidestepping legal safeguards protecting personal information.

While many Americans refer to the Korean War as the "forgotten war," it is anything but that in South Korea 70 years after North Korea invaded.

The war lasted from 1950 to 1953 but never formally ended, and tensions between North and South Korea continue to ebb and flow.

Survivors of one little-known group of combatants say they still want proper recognition. They are the former child soldiers.

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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

North Korea has pledged to redeploy troops into demilitarized areas near its border with South Korea, a day after it blew up a liaison office in a provocation that has markedly increased tensions between the two arch-rivals.

North Korea blew up its joint liaison office with South Korea on Tuesday, in a dramatic and carefully planned display of rancor toward its southern neighbor. The act follows threats from Pyongyang and signals what experts believe will be more provocations to come.

South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean ties, confirmed that the liaison office was destroyed by a blast shortly before 3:00 p.m. local time. The office was established in 2018 in the Kaesong Industrial Zone, just north of the Demilitarized Zone.

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