Anthony Kuhn | WAMC

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.

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

After spending hundreds of millions of dollars to sponsor the Tokyo Olympics, some of Japan's biggest corporations are now canceling advertising, scaling back promotional events, and scrapping plans for executives to attend the upcoming opening ceremony.

SEOUL, South Korea — Despite early successes last year in controlling the pandemic, South Korea on Friday announced it would raise restrictions in the capital region to the highest level as a fourth wave of infections is gaining speed.

The country recorded 1,316 cases Friday, breaking records for a second straight day. That's not high by international standards, but health authorities say the peak of this fourth wave of infections is likely yet to come, and barring effective countermeasures, could see case numbers nearly double.

Japan has announced that the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead under a state of emergency and without any spectators at events in the capital.

"We must take stronger steps to prevent another nationwide outbreak, also considering the impact of coronavirus variants," Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Thursday at a task force meeting after finalizing the decision.

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has publicly railed at senior officials, saying their failure to implement policies required to fight the pandemic properly had caused a "grave incident."

SEOUL, South Korea — Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics abruptly reversed a decision, announced the previous day, to sell alcohol at Olympic venues, following criticism from medical experts and ordinary Japanese.

The games are due to start in one month's time, despite calls for them to be canceled, due to the pandemic.

Organizers for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics announced they will allow some local spectators into each venue as long as no state of emergency is in effect.

Up to 10,000 domestic fans will be allowed at events, or 50% of the venue's capacity, whichever is less, organizers said Monday.

The coronavirus situation in Japan has improved in recent weeks with increased vaccinations, though critics still believe it would be safer to close the games to all spectators.

Olympic organizers and Japan's government are ramping up vaccinations, inside and outside the Olympic Village. It remains to be seen whether the push will be the antidote to widespread opposition in Japan to holding the games amid the pandemic and pervasive fear that the event will threaten public health.

South Korean labor rights activist Kim Yi-chan's bus is not hard to spot as it cruises the rural roads of Miryang city, on the southern end of the Korean peninsula.

It is the only one with a banner in Korean and Khmer bearing the words "Migrant Agricultural Workers' Human Rights Bus," as it plies the narrow roads between farming hamlets and long rows of greenhouses.

SEOUL, South Korea — Japan's government extended a state of emergency covering major cities until at least until June 20 — roughly a month before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, which polls show an overwhelming number of Japanese do not want to proceed as scheduled.

SEOUL — It isn't hard to see a pattern in the first two foreign heads of state to visit the Biden White House: Both are leaders of key Asian allies and free market democracies. Last month, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was the first to meet with President Biden in Washington. On Friday, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in will be the second.

With much of Japan in a renewed state of emergency due to a spike in coronavirus infections, a group representing some 6,000 primary care physicians in Tokyo has called for the Summer Games to be canceled.

In an open letter to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga published Monday on its website, the Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association says hospitals "have their hands full" and have almost no capacity left to deal with a possible outbreak triggered by the massive international event.

Japan's government moved Friday to put more of the country under a coronavirus state of emergency, as opposition to the Tokyo Olympics becomes more organized and vehement with only 70 days left to go until the opening ceremony.

SEOUL — The cold light of winter shines down on a hillside temple in Seoul. It gleams on the billowing red, yellow and blue robes of shaman Jeong Soon-deok, as she twirls in circles. It glints off the ceremonial knives, bells and fans she waves through the air.

The man standing before her in simple white robes is her newest initiate. Jeong's aim is to throw open the doors of the spirit world so the gods of sun, moon and mountains and the spirits of ancestors and children may enter him.

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

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Korea was divided into two countries in 1945. North Korea became a totalitarian - South Korea, an affluent democracy. But you might be surprised at some of the things they still have in common.

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

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

It was the first welcome of a foreign leader to the Biden White House. The Japanese prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, sat down with President Biden to discuss regional security and threats to that security from one of Japan's neighbors.

SEOUL — As Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has readied for his trip to Washington — where, on Friday, he will be the first foreign leader to meet face-to-face with President Biden — opposition lawmaker Shiori Yamao has been making preparations of her own.

Japan's government announced a decision to begin dumping more than a million tons of treated but still radioactive wastewater from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean in two years.

The plant was severely damaged in a 2011 magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami that left about 20,000 people in northeast Japan dead or missing.

Athletes holding the Olympic torch set off on a relay run Thursday morning in Japan's northeast, showing the organizers' determination to proceed with the Summer Games, despite widespread public skepticism.

The relay is set to crisscross across Japan and arrive at the opening ceremony in Tokyo on July 23.

North Korea launched two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan Thursday, in its first provocation of the Biden White House.

The missiles fell into the waters that lie between North Korea and Japan, and avoided the latter's economic zone, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in a statement.

Suga condemned Pyongyang's actions and said it "threatens the peace and security of Japan and the region." He noted that North Korea's actions violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin left East Asia on Thursday, having reassured allies, reasserted American diplomacy and outlined foreign policy priorities on the first Cabinet-level overseas trip of the Biden administration.

But the trip also showed divergent interests and policy approaches among the allies to the two issues that loomed large over the visit: North Korea's growing nuclear arsenal and China's growing assertiveness.

SEOUL, South Korea - In Tokyo on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin put U.S. alliances, and cooperation with allies to counter China's challenges to U.S. primacy, at the center of the Biden administration's foreign policy in its first Cabinet-level trip abroad.

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Today, Japan held commemorations to mark 10 years since the triple calamity of a massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown struck the Fukushima area. NPR's Anthony Kuhn looks back at the event and its impact on the nation.

SEOUL — The U.S. and South Korea struck a preliminary deal to share defense costs, as the Biden administration moves to quickly reassure allies and mend rifts opened by the Trump administration.

The U.S. agreement in principle follows a one-year deal recently struck with Japan, where the U.S. has some 55,000 military personnel. Both deals come less than two months into the new U.S. administration.

SEOUL — The military's killing of at least 18 protesters on Sunday in Myanmar has increased pressure on foreign governments to use their influence to push for the release of the country's elected leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, from detention, and restore some measure of democratic rule.

Japan's Olympic organizing chief resigned Friday following a groundswell of criticism that his remarks more than a week ago showed disdain for women and that he tried to maintain the male-dominated status quo by installing his own replacement on the Tokyo Games organizing committee.

Japan's Olympic organizing chief, Yoshiro Mori, plans to resign Friday amid a firestorm of criticism about his remarks disparaging women's participation in organizing the games, according to Japanese news reports.

Japan may have several million fewer coronavirus vaccine doses than originally planned because the country does not have the appropriate syringes. It's another setback to one of the slower vaccination rollouts among developed economies.

The Pfizer vaccine normally contains five doses per vial. But a special syringe known as a low dead space syringe, which expels more medicine from the space between a syringe's needle and plunger, can eke out six doses per vial.

With this summer's Tokyo Olympics already hanging in the balance due to the coronavirus pandemic, public outrage over sexist remarks by the Games' organizing chief has thrown the event into a deeper crisis.

Despite the efforts of Japanese and Olympic officials to quash the debate, pressure on 83-year-old Yoshiro Mori is mounting over his comments last week saying that women talk too much in board meetings.

Unable to tame a third wave of coronavirus infections after a month-long state of emergency, Japan announced Tuesday it is extending the emergency for another month. The move comes despite a mounting toll on the economy and the threat of bumping up against the country's Summer Olympics preparations.

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