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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Japanese officials are swatting away rumors and reports that the government has concluded that, with the Tokyo Olympics 151 days away and much of the country in a COVID-19 state of emergency, the games cannot be held.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

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.

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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.

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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.

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