Anthony Kuhn | KERA News

Anthony Kuhn

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Some fans of South Korea's K-pop music are mourning the death of one of its stars. As NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Seoul, the 25-year-old singer and actress was known for being unusually outspoken.

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Japan is recovering from a powerful typhoon. It appears to be the worst one to hit the country in more than 60 years. At least 40 people are thought to be dead. And there is a lot of damage. NPR's Anthony Kuhn has been monitoring this storm from Seoul. Hi, Anthony.

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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."

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"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.

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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.

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All right, I want to bring in another voice now. It is Wong Yik-Mo. He is the vice convener of the Civil Human Rights Front. This is the pro-democracy group that organized the march in Hong Kong yesterday. Thanks so much for coming on the program.

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