Elise Hu

Elise Hu is an award-winning correspondent assigned to NPR's newest international bureau, in Seoul, South Korea. She's responsible for covering geopolitics, business and life in both Koreas and Japan. She previously covered the intersection of technology and culture for the network's on-air, online and multimedia platforms.

Hu joined NPR in 2011 to coordinate the digital development and editorial vision for the StateImpact network, a state government reporting project focused on member stations.

Before joining NPR, she was one of the founding reporters at The Texas Tribune, a non-profit digital news startup devoted to politics and public policy. While at the Tribune, Hu oversaw television partnerships and multimedia projects; contributed to The New York Times' expanded Texas coverage and pushed for editorial innovation across platforms.

An honors graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia's School of Journalism, she previously worked as the state political reporter for KVUE-TV in Austin, WYFF-TV in Greenville, SC, and reported from Asia for the Taipei Times.

Her work has earned a Gannett Foundation Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism, a National Edward R. Murrow award for best online video, beat reporting awards from the Texas Associated Press and The Austin Chronicle once dubiously named her the "Best TV Reporter Who Can Write."

Outside of work, Hu has taught digital journalism at Northwestern University and Georgetown University's journalism schools and serves as a guest co-host for TWIT.tv's program, Tech News Today. She's also an adviser to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, where she keeps up with emerging media and technology as a panelist for the Knight News Challenge.

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6:44am

Sat May 30, 2015
Goats and Soda

South Korea Struggles To Contain Deadly MERS Virus' Spread

In this photo from 2014, passengers walk past the Middle East respiratory syndrome quarantine area at Manila's International Airport in the Phillipines. The virus is now raising public concern in South Korea.
Aaron Favila AP

A deadly virus with no known cure — Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS — has infected 13 people in South Korea since mid-May. The fast spread of the disease, from the first case confirmed on May 20 to more than a dozen by Saturday, is prompting criticism of health officials for not moving faster to quarantine suspected patients.

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5:34am

Sun May 24, 2015
The Two-Way

Controversy Follows As Activists Cross North-South Korean Border

Originally published on Tue May 26, 2015 10:53 am

Gloria Steinem and South Korean peace activists march along a military fence at a checkpoint after crossing the border separating North and South Korea.
Jung Yeon-Je AFP/Getty Images

The much-publicized peace walk across the inter-Korean border was really a bus ride. South Korean immigration officials insisted that a group of 30 international women, including American feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem and two Nobel Prize laureates, take a ride across the border for their own safety.

Still, Steinem said, just getting agreement to cross at all — from two nations still technically at war — counts as a win.

"It was an enormous, enormous triumph," Steinem said, after crossing into the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone.

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4:01am

Fri May 22, 2015
The Two-Way

Korean Air 'Nut Rage' Executive Freed From Prison

Originally published on Fri May 22, 2015 2:50 pm

Former Korean Air executive Cho Hyun-Ah, after being released by a Seoul appeals court.
Jung Yeon-je AFP/Getty Images

Former Korean Air executive Cho Hyun-ah, or Heather Cho, is out of prison after a four-month stay. If her name and alias don't ring a bell for you, the reason why she was jailed might.

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3:47am

Mon May 18, 2015
The Two-Way

In Seoul, Kerry Calls N. Korea Provocations 'Egregious,' 'Reckless'

Originally published on Mon May 18, 2015 10:52 am

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hold a joint news conference following meetings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Given the always-present tensions in this region, it's no surprise that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Seoul on Monday was all about security.

"We are not seeking conflict, we are seeking a peaceful resolution of the differences that still exist after so many years on the peninsula," Kerry said.

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4:56pm

Thu May 14, 2015
All Tech Considered

She's Almost Real: The New Humanoid On Customer Service Duty In Tokyo

Originally published on Fri May 15, 2015 4:15 pm

Shoppers view and take photographs of humanoid robot "Chihira" at the information reception desk of Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo.
Chris McGrath Getty Images

The latest robot sensation in Japan is so lifelike that when she was on the floor of a Tokyo department store recently, she was confused for a human being. The new humanoid's name is Aiko Chihira, and she was working in customer service, clad in a traditional silk kimono.

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8:28am

Wed May 13, 2015
The Two-Way

Spy Agency: North Korea Executes Its Defense Chief With Anti-Aircraft Guns

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 9:22 am

A man watches a television showing news coverage of the reported execution of North Korea's defense minister, Hyon Yong Chol, at a railway station in Seoul on Wednesday.
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

Just days after grabbing international attention for reportedly testing a submarine-fired ballistic missile, North Korea executed its defense chief on the order of dictator Kim Jong Un. That's according to South Korea's spy agency, which briefed Seoul's lawmakers on the development Wednesday.

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2:21pm

Mon May 11, 2015
Parallels

The First Place In East Asia To Welcome Same-Sex Marriage

Originally published on Sun May 17, 2015 8:10 pm

Yae and Ren were married during Tokyo's Rainbow Pride Weekend in April. One Tokyo ward, or neighborhood, has recognized same-sex marriages, becoming the first place in Japan — or anywhere in East Asia — to do so.
Elise Hu NPR

Over Tokyo's Rainbow Pride Weekend in late April, Ren married her partner of four years, Yae, on stage before hundreds of Japanese strangers. They were proud to tie the knot and be part of a milestone in Japan and East Asia, a region where same-sex partnerships have never previously been recognized.

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4:16am

Mon May 11, 2015
Parallels

South Korea's Single Moms Struggle To Remove A Social Stigma

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 10:40 am

On Sunday, about 70 marchers gathered at Seoul's City Hall Square to raise attention for South Korea's single moms. The annual event is in its fifth year.
Elise Hu NPR

Monday marks a different kind of Mother's Day in South Korea. It's Single Mother's Day, an effort by civic groups to raise awareness of Korean society's unwed moms.

Despite Korea's rapid economic advancement, the country has yet to catch up to the notion of nontraditional families. Single moms are still forced into the shadows of society — ostracized by family members, discriminated against at work and all the while, trying to raise children without a network of support.

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3:54am

Thu May 7, 2015
All Tech Considered

A Startup Scene That's Not So Hot: Japan's Entrepreneur Shortage

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 9:07 am

At Slush Asia, a new tech festival held in Tokyo in late April, the scene and the energy resembled a small-scale South by Southwest Interactive.
Elise Hu NPR

Toshiba. Sony. Sharp. You know those brand names because they dominated the Japanese economy's global rise in the '80s. But that was 30 years ago. As the Japanese economy stagnates, it's unclear which new companies will replace them.

Doga Makiura is Japanese, and a startup founder. But he's not a startup founder in Japan. He created businesses in other Asian countries instead.

Why not be an entrepreneur in his native country?

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6:12am

Tue May 5, 2015
The Two-Way

NYU Student Detained In North Korea Was Hoping For 'Great Event'

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 9:45 pm

A screen grab from Joo Won-moon's interview with CNN from Pyongyang on Tuesday.
CNN

New York University student Joo Won-moon, who's a South Korean citizen, says he's healthy and being treated well in North Korean custody, according to an interview he gave CNN on Tuesday.

Joo, 21, acknowledged he crossed the border into North Korea illegally, out of hopes for a "great event" to help strengthen ties between diplomatic rivals North and South Korea.

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3:51am

Tue April 28, 2015
Parallels

The Past Haunts The Present For Japan's Shinzo Abe

Originally published on Tue April 28, 2015 2:17 pm

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Boston on Monday.
Dominick Reuter AFP/Getty Images

As Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tours the U.S. this week, he has a state dinner at the White House and will be the first Japanese prime minister to address a joint meeting of Congress. But while he prepares to lay out a vision for the future, not all is well in his own East Asian neighborhood, where the past remains a huge source of tension.

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9:20am

Sat April 18, 2015
The Two-Way

Heavy Police Presence At Ferry Demonstrations Bring Seoul To A Halt

Originally published on Sat April 18, 2015 1:08 pm

Riot police at the entrance to a subway station in central Seoul.
Elise Hu NPR

A weekend of planned vigils and marches to mark the one-year anniversary of the deadly Sewol ferry sinking in South Korea has turned into tense clashes between demonstrators and police.

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11:38am

Wed April 15, 2015
Parallels

A Year After Ferry Disaster, South Koreans Await Answers

Originally published on Thu April 16, 2015 5:39 am

Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry accident stand before a banner featuring victim photos during a protest. More than 300 people, most of them high school students, died in the accident. Nine people remain missing.
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

3:34am

Wed April 15, 2015
Parallels

The All-Work, No-Play Culture Of South Korean Education

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 3:39 pm

Students take the annual College Scholastic Ability Test, or college entrance exam, at a high school in Seoul last November. Students face enormous pressure to do well on the test and get into a top university. Airplanes are grounded on the day of the test so they won't disturb the students.
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

In South Korea, grim stories of teen suicide come at a regular clip. Recently, two 16-year-old girls in the city of Daejeon jumped to their deaths, leaving a note saying, "We hate school."

It's just one tragedy in a country where suicide is the leading cause of death among teens, and 11- to 15-year-olds report the highest amount of stress out of 30 developed nations.

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12:22pm

Fri April 10, 2015
Parallels

A Forgotten Generation: Half Of South Korea's Elderly Live In Poverty

Originally published on Mon April 13, 2015 12:50 am

Koreans — many of them elderly — line up to receive 500 won, or about 50 cents, from Shin Banpo Church in southern Seoul. Each week, organizers say, a few hundred seniors show up at each church that offers the service, and the line starts hours in advance.
Elise Hu NPR

South Korea may be known for its high-tech advances, luxury skin care products and rapid economic rise, but these days, the generation largely responsible for all that growth isn't faring so well. South Korea has the worst senior poverty rate among developed nations, and the options for seniors are slim.

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9:37am

Tue April 7, 2015
Parallels

Pew: Japan And U.S. Respect Each Other And Distrust China

Originally published on Tue April 7, 2015 6:55 pm

Responses when Japanese were asked, "Which of these characteristics do you associate with American people?"
Pew Research Center

This year, the U.S. and Japan mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, a bitter time that left deep wounds. In the 1980s, Japan and U.S. were at times economic adversaries, caught up in bilateral trade disputes.

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3:36am

Tue March 24, 2015
The Salt

Koreans Have An Insatiable Appetite For Watching Strangers Binge Eat

Originally published on Wed May 6, 2015 3:39 pm

Rachel Ahn, who goes by "Aebong-ee," is among the top 100 most-watched mukbang stars in South Korea.
Elise Hu NPR

Move over, cooking shows. In Korea, the big food fad is eating shows, or mukbang. Korean viewers are so glued to watching strangers binge eating that the live-streamers consuming calories in front of webcams are becoming minor celebrities in Korean culture.

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9:50am

Thu March 19, 2015
Parallels

A Chinese Tourism Boom Has South Koreans Cramming

Originally published on Thu April 2, 2015 3:02 pm

Language instructor Soh Bor-am teaches eight Mandarin classes a day, as Chinese tourism to South Korea swells.
Elise Hu NPR

Perhaps nowhere is the growth of the Chinese middle-class more visible than at top tourist destinations, which these days are teeming with Chinese travelers. The Chinese are traveling abroad in numbers never seen before, and it's felt strongly in South Korea, which finds itself scrambling to keep up with an estimated 4 million Chinese tourists a year.

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4:52pm

Thu February 5, 2015
All Tech Considered

Anthem Hack Renews Calls For Laws To Better Prevent Breaches

Originally published on Fri February 6, 2015 2:46 pm

Anthem says 80 million company records were accessed in what may be one of the largest health care data breaches to date.
Aaron P. Bernstein Getty Images

The call for more systemic changes to prevent mega-hacks is getting louder after hackers hit Anthem, the nation's second-largest health insurer. The company says cyberthieves gained access to the addresses, employment information and Social Security numbers of 80 million customers and employees.

Eighty million individuals is a lot — it's roughly the populations of California, Texas and Illinois combined.

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4:25pm

Wed February 4, 2015
All Tech Considered

Does Facebook Cause Depression? Depends On How You Use It

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 9:52 am

Another day, another Facebook-makes-us-sadder study. This time, it's from the University of Missouri, and it comes with a key caveat: Facebook can make us sadder, the researchers find, but only if you're using it to lurk from afar — to check on how an old acquaintance is doing, for example, without actually engaging that person with "likes" or comments.

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7:03am

Wed February 4, 2015
All Tech Considered

FCC Chairman Wheeler Backs Regulating Internet As Public Utility

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 10:48 am

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler unveiled his plan in a Wired op-ed on Wednesday. The FCC is scheduled to vote on the proposal Feb. 26.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Updated Feb. 4, 11:52 a.m. ET: Wheeler Outlines His Proposal In Wired.

Today is the day net neutrality watchers had been waiting for, according to numerous reports. After months of debate, discussion and the culling of nearly 4 million public comments on the matter, the Federal Communications Commission appears poised to decide how it will regulate the Internet.

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3:46pm

Mon January 26, 2015
The Two-Way

Just Plane Sad: A Show Of Support For SkyMall

Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 5:30 pm

SkyMall art by Kevin and Miles Taylor.
Kevin and Miles Taylor

Whether it was the $85,000 personal submarine craft, the telepathic obstacle course or the yeti yard ornaments we could never quite afford, in-flight catalog SkyMall — and the kitschy items sold inside its pages — are going to be hard to forget.

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11:56am

Fri January 23, 2015
The Two-Way

Goodbye, Garden Yeti: In-Flight Catalog SkyMall Files For Bankruptcy

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 9:00 am

A signature SkyMall item: The hot dog bun toaster.
SkyMall

SkyMall, the ubiquitous in-flight catalog that reliably greets you in the seatback pocket, is falling victim to technological innovation.

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4:51pm

Thu January 15, 2015
All Tech Considered

Remaking Vegas In A Tech Billionaire's Image: Will It Last?

Originally published on Tue January 20, 2015 12:08 pm

Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh is spearheading an effort to revitalize downtown Las Vegas and make it a tech hub, home for small businesses and a creative community.
Isaac Brekken for NPR

This story is the latest in NPR's Cities Project.

Fifteen minutes north of the iconic Vegas Strip is the economically depressed downtown Las Vegas, a much-forgotten part of town. It's also an area of tremendous change in recent years, since it's the heart of tech billionaire Tony Hsieh's ambitious Downtown Project — an effort that's part urban revitalization, part social experiment.

Three years in, it's not going as quickly as he expected.

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7:03am

Thu January 8, 2015
All Tech Considered

The Unstoppable Selfie Stick Trend Has Invaded American Shores

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 12:43 pm

A couple uses a selfie stick on a Mexican beach.
Elise Hu NPR

Selfie sticks first proliferated in Asia, where so many tech trends seem to originate, for better or worse. Tourists wielding giant poles with their cellphones attached at the end stood before the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, smiling for their faraway phone cameras. Or they whipped these rods out in Myeongdong, a shopping promenade in Seoul.

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4:13pm

Mon December 29, 2014
All Tech Considered

The 2014 Tech Trends We'll Still Be Talking About Next Year

Originally published on Mon December 29, 2014 6:35 pm

A video about the Apple Watch is shown during an Apple special event in Cupertino, Calif.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

And just like that, 2014 is coming to a close. We live in fast-moving, hyper-connected times in which it seems technology is driving numerous cultural changes. NPR tech reporters Laura Sydell, Aarti Shahani and I looked back on a few ideas and topics that intrigued us this year but will continue to get attention in the year ahead.

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4:29pm

Thu December 25, 2014
Technology

Online Sellers Pop Up In Real Life, For A Limited Time Only

Originally published on Mon December 29, 2014 12:13 pm

One-click shopping is changing the ways people shop and retailers sell their wares. But some online retailers are opening physical stores — some of which last as short as a day. (This story originally aired on All Things Considered on July 28, 2014.)

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8:02am

Wed December 24, 2014
All Tech Considered

In Its Strange Journey, 'The Interview' Becomes An Art House Film

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 8:59 am

The Alamo Drafthouse theater chain will show The Interview starting on Christmas Day.
Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

A buddy flick about killing North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un will be shown on Christmas Day after all, at least in about 200 independent theaters. This kind of small-scale distribution model and the politics surrounding The Interview give what was once a big-budget Hollywood release the spirit of an art house film.

In the satirical film, which is at the center of a geopolitical tussle, Seth Rogen and James Franco play television producers who get an interview with Kim but are then hired by the CIA to "take him out."

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5:08am

Wed December 24, 2014
Movies

More Than 200 Theaters To Show 'The Interview' On Christmas Day

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 7:46 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

5:18am

Sat December 13, 2014
All Tech Considered

Tech Week: Instagram Vs. Twitter And Europe Vs. Google

Instagram topped Twitter in active users in its latest count.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

If you've been too busy finalizing holiday vacation plans and buying gifts, we're here to catch you up on the tech headlines you may have missed from NPR and beyond.

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