Elise Hu

Fleeing war, more than 500 Yemenis arrived earlier this year in an unlikely place — a tiny South Korean resort island. They're hoping to be granted asylum so they can stay in South Korea, but as they wait on the island of Jeju, they've become the target of blistering backlash from South Koreans.

"I love Korea, really," Ebrahim Qaid says. He is one of 561 Yemenis who arrived on Jeju earlier this year through the island's policy of allowing most foreign nationals to enter without getting a visa in advance.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Around the world, the flurry of diplomatic efforts to salvage the June 12 summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has dominated headlines. But there's one place where it hasn't: North Korea itself.

A North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, met this week with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York, but North Koreans are seeing none of that in their regular 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. national broadcasts.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

To get a sense of how today's announcement is playing in South Korea, let's turn now to NPR's Elise Hu in Seoul. Hi, Elise.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: Hey there, Ari.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, it looks like the summit is now off. President Trump has canceled his proposed meeting with the leader of North Korea. This announcement came on the same morning that North Korea made a very public showing destroying a very important nuclear test site.

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When it comes to inter-Korean relations, pop music — and politics — work in concert. North Korea sent a musical delegation to South Korea for the Winter Olympics last month.

Now it's the other side's turn. South Korean solo singers and group acts will head north this weekend for the first time in more than a decade.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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The Winter Olympics in South Korea will be a chance for the country to show off its newest robot creations. NPR's Elise Hu reports that the peek into the future starts as soon as you land at the airport.

In Gangnam, the upscale Seoul district south of the Han River bisecting the city, one of the area's biggest industries is evident on people's faces: On the streets, patients are wearing nose guards and bandages, fresh from facial fix-ups. High-rises soar with a cosmetic surgery clinic on every floor, and in the subway stations, floor-to-ceiling advertisements feature images of women's uniformly wide-eyed, youthful faces — all with the message that you, too, can look this way if you go to the right clinic.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is ready to talk about talking to North Korea.

"We're ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. And we're ready to have the first meeting without precondition," he said, in remarks Tuesday at the Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We hear this story again and again, but each time, it's just a little bit worse. North Korea tested a missile, and this time it appeared to have the longest range yet.

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This month diners in Toronto were treated to a four-course meal at a pop-up restaurant called June's. The menu included Northern Thai leek and potato soup with a hint of curry, a pasta served with smoked arctic char followed by garlic rapini and flank steak. The entire meal was topped off with a boozy tiramisu for dessert.

In addition to a mouthwatering meal, the chefs at June's also served a message which they wore on their shirts: "Break bread. Smash stigma."

When a municipal lawmaker, Yuka Ogata, brought her 7-month-old baby to her job in a male-dominated legislature, she was met with such surprise and consternation by her male colleagues that eventually, she and the baby were asked to leave. Officials of the Kumamoto Municipal Assembly, of which she's a member, said although there's no rule prohibiting infants, they booted her citing a rule that visitors are forbidden from the floor.

The End We Start From is a book told in pieces — readers have to work for the story. Eventually, you put together enough pieces to know we're in London, sometime in the near future, and everyone's had to flee to higher ground because of an epic flood. In the midst of the chaos, a young mother — suddenly a refugee fighting for survival — tries to keep her new baby alive when the future of humankind itself is in doubt.

Japanese voters have just days left to decide who they will support in a snap general election set for Sunday.

Japanese politics are usually tame. But this time around, the charismatic governor of Tokyo is adding unexpected elements to the race.

South Korea faces a chronic dirty air problem that makes it one of the most polluted countries in the world. It's common to hear that neighboring China is to blame, but a joint study by NASA and the Korean government has found there's a lot South Korea can do on its own to cut the smog.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So we definitely want to spend some time this morning talking about North Korea maybe - maybe - testing a hydrogen bomb. But let's start with some news out of the White House last night on immigration.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Japan has the world's highest number of people age 65 and older. And a growing number of elderly people there are dying in accidental choking deaths. For the past 10 years, according to Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the vast majority of those deaths have been senior citizens.

Japanese purikura photo booths, which produce selfies that you can decorate and print out, predate Snapchat filters by at least a decade. At about $3.50 a pop, they are still attracting hordes of Tokyo teenagers.

Japanese toilets have come a long way from the early 20th century, when many people in Japan still used "squatters," which were built into the floor.

Western toilets became popular after World War II. And today, signature Japanese toilets offer the world's most futuristic and automated technology when nature calls.

South Korea in recent years has become the hot place for beauty product innovation, and it is often called the cosmetic surgery capital of the world.

In the dense megacities of East Asia, millions of people dwell in high-rises with very little green space. This isn't an ideal setting to raise big dogs or more unusual pets. Cramped quarters aren't great for domesticated pets in general.

At the height of the Cold War, in the 1960s and beyond, South Korean students were taught — and believed — some startling falsehoods about Communist North Koreans. One of these gained credence and lasted far longer than the Cold War itself.

Over the course of my reporting in Seoul, some interviews with North Korean defectors and older South Koreans have revealed a South Korean notion that North Koreans are really more like ... beasts.

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