Anthony Kuhn

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Updated August 27, 2021 at 1:04 PM ET

SEOUL — The Biden administration has to decide by the end of the month whether to renew a ban on U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea, and Americans with relatives in North Korea are eagerly awaiting the decision.

They include Kate Shim, who immigrated to the United States from South Korea in the 1970s. After the Korean War, her uncle was missing and her family believed he was in North Korea.

SEOUL — North and South Korea reconnected hotlines across the demilitarized zone Tuesday, after a nearly 14-month long disconnect.

Both Pyongyang and Seoul hailed the move as a step toward healing strained ties between the rival states, although neither side suggested the move could lead to another round of summitry or progress in stalled nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington.

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.

Updated July 9, 2021 at 12:18 PM ET

SEOUL — The Olympic medals use precious metal extracted from used electronics. Athletes sleep on cardboard beds. The podiums are recycled plastic. Even the Olympic torch has aluminum that was recycled from the temporary housing used after Japan's Fukushima disaster.

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Just before the Olympics, the State Department advised all travelers to avoid travel to Japan. Here's NPR's Anthony Kuhn.

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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.

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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.

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Japan announced today that it is extending a state of emergency across parts of the country in order to try and get COVID-19 infections down. Many hospitals in Japan are overwhelmed, and some patients have even died waiting for ICU beds. Here's NPR's Anthony Kuhn.

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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.

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After winning global praise for aggressively tackling the pandemic, South Korea is now dealing with a third wave of infections, and the government is facing criticism for flouting its own rules. NPR's Anthony Kuhn has the story from Seoul.

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Yoshihide Suga took over Wednesday as Japan's first new prime minister in almost eight years, replacing the country's longest-serving premier, Shinzo Abe, who stepped down citing health concerns.

Suga, 71, was sworn in by Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace after parliament elected him as prime minister.

Suga was Abe's chief Cabinet secretary and head government spokesman. Now he pledges to forge ahead with his predecessor's key policies, including his efforts to jump-start the economy and to revise Japan's postwar constitution, which restricts the use of its military.

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Updated at 11:30 a.m. ET

To the accompaniment of jangly guitars, a woman wearing glasses, short hair and a red overcoat shows off the landmarks of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. "Every building in Pyongyang is going through general cleaning to shake off winter dust," she says in English in a recent YouTube video.

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For months, South Korea has been praised as a model and a beacon of hope for the world in its desperate fight to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is preparing to declare modern Japan's first-ever state of emergency in response to a sudden increase in novel coronavirus cases in the capital, Tokyo, and several of the country's other major cities.

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Authorities around the world have issued their own guidelines and rules designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus. And as they've sought to enforce these rules, some efforts have sparked backlash and concerns about privacy.

Wednesday marked the first day of a furlough of roughly half the 9,000-strong Korean workforce staffing U.S. military bases in South Korea. The layoffs without pay — the first in the history of the seven-decade U.S.-South Korea alliance — were forced by an impasse between the two countries on paying for the cost of stationing some 28,500 American troops in South Korea.

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