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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.

"Stop the infection from spreading!"

The words appear to come straight from the beak of a creature with a bird's head, human hair and a fish's scaly body, in a recent public service announcement from Japan's health ministry.

In an early demonstration of how a government's response to an epidemic can alter the political landscape, South Korea's ruling, center-left Democratic Party scored a landslide victory in legislative elections Wednesday, largely on the strength of its success in tackling COVID-19.

Elections for South Korean National Assembly typically feature low voter turnout, but this year, the numbers jumped, with roughly two-thirds of eligible voters participating, the highest level in nearly three decades.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is preparing to declare modern Japan's first-ever state of emergency in response to a sudden increase in novel coronavirus cases in the capital, Tokyo, and several of the country's other major cities.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Authorities around the world have issued their own guidelines and rules designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus. And as they've sought to enforce these rules, some efforts have sparked backlash and concerns about privacy.

Wednesday marked the first day of a furlough of roughly half the 9,000-strong Korean workforce staffing U.S. military bases in South Korea. The layoffs without pay — the first in the history of the seven-decade U.S.-South Korea alliance — were forced by an impasse between the two countries on paying for the cost of stationing some 28,500 American troops in South Korea.

Japan's government on Monday resisted calls to declare a national state of emergency, despite a recent spike in confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Tokyo and warnings of further exponential growth.

"It's not true that the government is planning on declaring a state of emergency from April 1," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters, refuting rumors.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finally conceded that the COVID-19 epidemic might force the postponement of this summer's Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to start four months from now.

Speaking before Parliament, Abe reacted to a Sunday statement by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which said that over the next four weeks it would consider alternative scenarios for the Games, including postponement, but not cancellation.

If you roll up to a drive-through COVID-19 testing center in South Korea, you might notice that safety procedures extend all the way to your car's air conditioning. You will be advised to hit the recirculation button so that if you're sick, you can keep your pathogens to yourself, in your car, and avoid infecting the medical personnel doing the testing.

The test takes 10 minutes at most. Results are texted to you, usually the next day. And it's free — paid for by the government.

The city of Daegu, about 150 miles southeast of Seoul, has long been a bustling industrial center and transport hub, home to 2.5 million South Koreans. But lately Daegu has become a shadow of its usual self. "It actually looks like a scene from a disaster movie," says Dr. Lee Jun-yeup, communications director for the Daegu Medical Association. "Streets are empty, restaurants and shops closed. People stock up on instant noodles because they want to avoid going out."

South Korea's government says it is in a critical struggle to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus from the disease's epicenter in Daegu. It has given itself four weeks to stabilize the situation in the city of 2.5 million, some 150 miles southeast of the capital, Seoul.

"If authorities fail to contain the spread of the COVID-19 in Daegu, there is a high possibility that COVID-19 could spread nationwide," Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters on Monday.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Updated at 5:30 p.m.

As China's neighbors battle the spread of the coronavirus, one nation in particular is arousing international concern: North Korea. While the country publicly insists it is completely free of the virus, and a World Health Organization official has said there are "no indications" so far of COVID-19 infection there, experts question how long that may be the case.

Updated at 1:08 p.m. ET

After keeping the world waiting and watching, first for a "Christmas present" to the U.S., and then for a New Year's shift to a harder line on nuclear negotiations, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivered neither.

Some analysts believe a key reason behind his calculations may be President Trump's prospects for surviving an impeachment process and possibly winning a second term in the White House.

In a speech to a plenary session of the ruling Workers Party Central Committee, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says he no longer feels bound by a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing, which has held for the past two years. However, he stopped short of saying he was breaking off nuclear negotiations with the U.S., nor did he formally announce a shift to a more hard-line policy.

The official Korean Central News Agency carried Kim's remarks to the Party Plenum, which has been held in Pyongyang over the past four days (Saturday through Tuesday).

In September, Seattle resident Barbara Kim celebrated Chuseok, the Korean midautumn festival, with her family members in Seoul. Chuseok is a time to give thanks for plentiful harvests, and for Kim, who was adopted by an American family in the 1960s, this was a particularly special occasion: She was able to spend the holiday with several of her birth relatives.

At the celebration, they and a group of South Korean orphans, now in their teens and 20s, dug into platters of bulgogi, kimbap, japche and other traditional Korean dishes.

In an escalating dispute over how much allies should pay the U.S. to station troops on their soil, U.S. negotiators walked out on talks with South Korea in Seoul on Tuesday, as the two sides staked out vastly differing positions and accused the other side of being unreasonable.

North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday — possibly from a submarine — just days ahead of the expected resumption of nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea after a seven-month hiatus.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff says the missile was fired from waters off the peninsula's east coast, near the port city of Wonsan, and traveled about 280 miles to the east before landing in the Sea of Japan.

South Korea's National Security Council standing committee held a meeting after the test and voiced its "strong concern."

"My hometown, where I once lived, is a mountain village with blossoming flowers."

The lyrics to this folk song, which is sung in both Koreas, evoke nostalgia for a time and a place to which one can never return.

On a recent day, it is playing at a makeshift shrine in downtown Seoul. There's an altar with flowers, alongside photos of 42-year-old North Korean defector Han Seong-ok and her 6-year-old son, Kim Dong-jin.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Top U.S. defense officials delivered a rare and public rebuke of a top ally in Asia, South Korea, following Seoul's decision last week to pull out of a 2016 intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo.

That withdrawal was sparked by a bitter dispute between the two countries that began over compensation for Korean victims of war crimes perpetrated by Japan during its decades of occupation of the Korean peninsula, which ended after World War II.

The protests that have rocked Hong Kong for much of the past three months have followed familiar patterns.

First, hundreds of thousands of people, including families with babies in strollers, pack the city streets. Then the sun goes down, the families head home, and the young men and women in black come out. They come ready to confront the "popo," as they call the police.

Updated at 3 p.m. ET

South Korea plans to terminate a military intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan, prompting concerns about security cooperation between Seoul, Tokyo and Washington as North Korea's nuclear and missile threats loom over the Korean Peninsula.

It's the latest breakdown between Seoul and Tokyo: Earlier this month, Japan removed South Korea from its "whitelist" of favored trade partners, prompting a retaliation in kind.

On a sultry recent afternoon, throngs of people in Hong Kong's North Point district lined King's Road, waiting tensely for black-clad young protesters to march through. In the mostly male crowd, many wore T-shirts with Chinese national flag stickers, identifying them as coming from China's Fujian province, several hundred miles northeast of Hong Kong.

A banner over the road bore the message "Please do not interfere with our liberties, please go back," making it clear that the protesters were not welcome in this neighborhood.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has wrapped up his first trip to Asia since assuming office last month, focusing on shoring up U.S. alliances in the region.

The U.S.-South Korea alliance "is ironclad & remains the linchpin of peace & security on the Korean Peninsula & in Northeast Asia," Esper said on Twitter, after meeting in the South Korean capital, Seoul, with Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo.

Japan downgraded its trading relationship with South Korea on Friday, escalating a simmering trade feud that some experts worry could undermine U.S. security ties with chief Asian allies and hinder their cooperation on the North Korean nuclear issue.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam has apologized publicly twice for proposing a bill to allow extraditions to mainland China, and now other senior officials have followed suit.

But a week after the legislation set off massive protests, the largely youth-driven opposition movement is keeping up its demands. Protest organizers are urging Lam to permanently withdraw the bill and resign.

Hong Kong's top official Carrie Lam issued a rare apology Sunday for her management of an extradition bill, but stopped short of withdrawing the proposal as protests coursed through the city.

A government spokesman said Lam's handling of the bill had caused "substantial controversies and disputes in society, causing disappointment and grief."

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Hong Kong's government has said it will indefinitely shelve a bill which would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China.

The bill triggered widespread anxiety in Hong Kong about the erosion of civil liberties in the territory, and triggered protests of, by some estimates, up to a million people last Sunday, followed by violent clashes which left around 80 police and protesters injured.

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