Anthony Kuhn | KCUR

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.

China's leader Xi Jinping arrived by plane in North Korea's capital on Thursday, for his fifth summit with Kim Jong Un since last year. Xi is the first Chinese leader to visit Pyongyang in 14 years.

Chinese and North Korean state media showed the two leaders looking out over the tarmac at the airport, as a military band plays and crowds of North Koreans wave flags to welcome Xi in his Air China jet. Banners hailing the "unbreakable friendship" between Pyongyang and Beijing were hung over streets around the capital.

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."

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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.

South Korea last week approved $8 million in food aid to North Korea, in response to what U.N. agencies say are the worst harvests there in a decade and severe food shortages affecting 40% of the North's population.

The optics and the rhetoric of President Trump's state visit to Japan aimed to show two allies at their closest in history, at the start of a new Japanese emperor's reign. Trump is the first state guest to visit since Emperor Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1. On Sunday, he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shared a round of golf, attended a sumo wrestling match and had a barbecue dinner.

There's an evening show on North Korea's state TV that brings soldiers news from their hometowns.

Last September, the show on the regime-run Korean Central Television, or KCTV, was interrupted for an urgent update.

"Another piece of news from our families on the homefront, just in from the Kangson steel factory," an announcer says.

"Soldiers from Kangson will be happy to hear that," the anchor replies, beaming.

The update: A soldier's father says he and fellow factory workers are so motivated that they will beat production targets by 50%.

At a gallery in Seoul's fashionable Gangnam district, the walls are lined with stark black-and-white photographic portraits of young women. Some smile, some stare at the camera impassively. Some are naked. All have short hair and no makeup.

It's the third such exhibition by South Korean photographer Jeon Bora, who seeks to document women who reject the country's standards of beauty and the social pressure to conform.

The women liken this pressure to a corset and have dubbed their movement, which began last year, "escape the corset."

In the years immediately after World War II, at the Peers' School in Tokyo, a Quaker teacher named Elizabeth Vining liked to give English names to her students, all children of the Japanese nobility.

"I was Eric," recalls Masao Oda, one of Vining's former pupils.

His roommate and classmate, a boy named Akihito, was given the name Jimmy. But Akihito pushed back.

"So he stood up and rejected this name given by Mrs. Vining, 'Jimmy,' " Oda recalls. " 'I'm not a Jimmy, I'm a crown prince,' he said."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Vladivostok, Russia, on Wednesday for a summit the next day with President Vladimir Putin, the first meeting between the two men. The Kremlin said they would discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

It is Kim's first trip to Russia and the first visit of a North Korean leader since Kim's father met with then-President Dmitry Medvedev in 2011. It is also Kim's first international voyage since President Trump walked out on a "bad deal" at the second U.S.-North Korea summit in February in the Vietnamese capital.

Updated Saturday 9:02 p.m. ET

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signaled his impatience with the United States, saying he was willing to hold a third summit with President Donald Trump, but only if the U.S. comes up with mutually agreeable terms for a deal by the end of this year.

Japan's military has confirmed that one of its F-35A jet fighters has crashed in the Pacific Ocean during a training exercise. National broadcaster NHK reports that search crews have recovered part of the plane's tail.

As of midday Wednesday in Japan, the plane's pilot, reportedly in his 40s, was still missing. It is not clear whether he ejected before the plane crashed. NHK quotes Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya as saying that the military is focusing on rescuing the pilot and investigating the cause of the crash. He added that the U.S. military is assisting with the search.

They are not widely known. And their chances at achieving their stated aim — overthrowing the North Korean government — are believed to be slim at best.

Yet the defector group that calls itself Free Joseon (Free North Korea) could be the first organization to have successfully infiltrated a North Korean diplomatic mission.

Last week, Free Joseon claimed responsibility for a Feb. 22 raid on Pyongyang's embassy in Madrid. Ten intruders armed with knives and replica pistols entered the embassy, according to Spanish authorities.

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

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In his books and speeches, President Trump has often promoted the power of walking away from a deal. And that is what he did in Vietnam today, ending a summit early with the leader of North Korea.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

With just days to go before his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Trump seems to have tried to lower public expectations for the meeting set for Feb. 27 to 28 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

"I'm in no rush for speed. We just don't want testing," Trump remarked on Friday, suggesting that he might not insist North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons, as long as it stops testing them.

Deep in the urban center of Kyoto, Japan, behind a department store, archaeologist Koji Iesaki digs down through successive layers of earth, each about 8 inches thick, taking him back in time to the Heian period, which began over 1,000 years ago.

He has found images of mythical beasts carved on roof tiles, remains of a moat that surrounded the temple during the Warring States period some 500 years ago and ritual vessels that held placentas, which were buried after childbirth in the belief that they would ensure a child's good health and fortune.

South Korea's human rights commission is launching a sprawling investigation into sexual abuse and violence in sports, following multiple allegations that coaches mistreated and attacked athletes.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea plans to interview thousands more athletes, including children and adults, about possible mistreatment.

The wind howls and snow drifts around a house in Koriyama, in northeastern Japan's Fukushima prefecture. The town is inland from Fukushima's coastal areas that were devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant meltdown.

Inside the home, several Vietnamese laborers prepare dinner. The house is a shelter, run by local Catholics, for foreign workers who are experiencing problems in Japan.

Kim Myong Song, a reporter for one of South Korea's biggest daily newspapers, the Chosun Ilbo, remembers rushing to cover a high-level meeting of North and South Korean officials early one morning in October.

Kim covers the Unification Ministry, which is in charge of inter-Korean relations. He also happens to be a defector from North Korea.

On the way to the bus that would take him to Panmunjom, the border village where the talks were taking place, the ministry called to tell him he had been barred from covering the event.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Progress toward an agreement between the U.S. and North Korea may have slowed, but South Korea has taken another remarkable step toward linking up with the neighboring regime — by train.

Last week, a South Korean train crossed the border into North Korea for the first time in a decade. It was a prelude to the two Koreas reconnecting their railways, after being separated for more than half a century.

South Korea is determined to push railway development forward, despite the lack of progress on the North Korean nuclear issue.

"Salute! Embrace the moon! White clouds float overhead! Step forward and push with palm!"

A coach barks out these martial arts moves in an auditorium at a private school in Taishan, a city in southern China's Guangdong province.

Two parallel rows of students kick, block and punch in sync with the commands.

Japan's government has confirmed that a Japanese journalist who was reportedly taken hostage in Syria in 2015, has been freed and is now in Turkey.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono says Japanese diplomats met with 44-year-old Jumpei Yasuda at an immigration center in Antakya, in southern Turkey. Yasuda has been there since being freed on Tuesday.

Kono said Yasuda appears to be in good health.

"A thousand newspapers with the same front page" is how the Chinese have for decades described the enforced uniformity of the country's state-controlled media.

Now, one face increasingly dominates those front pages. It belongs to China's president, Xi Jinping, who has gone to extraordinary lengths to control the narrative about China.

"The party controls the media, and of course, that means it controls the message," says University of Hong Kong media expert David Bandurski. "And basically, Xi Jinping is the message."

Updated at 11:01 a.m. ET

Hours after President Trump announced tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, China responded with its own levies on $60 billion worth of U.S. products.

Chinese state television on Tuesday reported that the government has decided to impose tariffs of 5 percent to 10 percent on $60 billion worth of U.S. products, starting on Monday. The tariffs will apply to 5,207 items.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NOEL KING, HOST:

As she collected her Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo 21 years after it was awarded, Aung San Suu Kyi recalled her years in isolation as a political prisoner, held under house arrest by what was then Burma's ruling junta.

Speaking at Oslo's City Hall in 2012, she remembered meditating on the nature of suffering in the context of her Buddhist faith.

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