Anthony Kuhn

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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A decade ago, building cleaner Noh Il-soon was in the market for a new church. She had previously moved within Seoul, and when she did, she looked for a local congregation to join.

A missionary introduced her to a Presbyterian church called Sarang Jeil, Korean for "love comes first." Noh says she was immediately captivated by the sermons of the charismatic pastor, Jun Kwang-hoon.

Japan's longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, announced in a press conference Thursday that he is stepping down because of poor health.

Abe, 65, has been in office since 2012. He also served as prime minister for one year beginning in 2006, also citing health as the reason for his resignation. Abe's longevity is noteworthy in a country that sees frequent turnover in its leadership.

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After keeping the coronavirus under control for roughly five months, South Korea finds itself on the verge of another major outbreak as COVID-19 cases jump to their highest level since March and the capital region retightens social distancing guidelines.

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.

"Rip apart the defectors, the traitors and the human trash," demonstrators wearing masks and standing in neat rows shouted at a rally in Nampo, North Korea, last month, state media reported.

Similar demonstrations took place around the country last month, aiming to signal dismay at South Korea for allowing defectors to send propaganda leaflets, often floated on balloons, over the border to criticize North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The mayor of South Korea's capital, and a possible future presidential candidate, was found dead after disappearing Thursday morning local time.

A rescue dog found Park Won-soon just after midnight Friday morning in a wooded park northeast of the presidential office, Seoul police official Choi Ik-su told reporters about two hours after the discovery.

Choi said the cause of death is under investigation, but there is no evidence of homicide so far.

South Korea has acknowledged it is permanently keeping data on patients from a previous virus epidemic, worrying privacy advocates that the government is sidestepping legal safeguards protecting personal information.

While many Americans refer to the Korean War as the "forgotten war," it is anything but that in South Korea 70 years after North Korea invaded.

The war lasted from 1950 to 1953 but never formally ended, and tensions between North and South Korea continue to ebb and flow.

Survivors of one little-known group of combatants say they still want proper recognition. They are the former child soldiers.

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North Korea has pledged to redeploy troops into demilitarized areas near its border with South Korea, a day after it blew up a liaison office in a provocation that has markedly increased tensions between the two arch-rivals.

North Korea blew up its joint liaison office with South Korea on Tuesday, in a dramatic and carefully planned display of rancor toward its southern neighbor. The act follows threats from Pyongyang and signals what experts believe will be more provocations to come.

South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean ties, confirmed that the liaison office was destroyed by a blast shortly before 3:00 p.m. local time. The office was established in 2018 in the Kaesong Industrial Zone, just north of the Demilitarized Zone.

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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.

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"Stop the infection from spreading!"

The words appear to come straight from the beak of a creature with a bird's head, human hair and a fish's scaly body, in a recent public service announcement from Japan's health ministry.

In an early demonstration of how a government's response to an epidemic can alter the political landscape, South Korea's ruling, center-left Democratic Party scored a landslide victory in legislative elections Wednesday, largely on the strength of its success in tackling COVID-19.

Elections for South Korean National Assembly typically feature low voter turnout, but this year, the numbers jumped, with roughly two-thirds of eligible voters participating, the highest level in nearly three decades.

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.

Japan's government on Monday resisted calls to declare a national state of emergency, despite a recent spike in confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Tokyo and warnings of further exponential growth.

"It's not true that the government is planning on declaring a state of emergency from April 1," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters, refuting rumors.

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finally conceded that the COVID-19 epidemic might force the postponement of this summer's Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to start four months from now.

Speaking before Parliament, Abe reacted to a Sunday statement by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which said that over the next four weeks it would consider alternative scenarios for the Games, including postponement, but not cancellation.

If you roll up to a drive-through COVID-19 testing center in South Korea, you might notice that safety procedures extend all the way to your car's air conditioning. You will be advised to hit the recirculation button so that if you're sick, you can keep your pathogens to yourself, in your car, and avoid infecting the medical personnel doing the testing.

The test takes 10 minutes at most. Results are texted to you, usually the next day. And it's free — paid for by the government.

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The city of Daegu, about 150 miles southeast of Seoul, has long been a bustling industrial center and transport hub, home to 2.5 million South Koreans. But lately Daegu has become a shadow of its usual self. "It actually looks like a scene from a disaster movie," says Dr. Lee Jun-yeup, communications director for the Daegu Medical Association. "Streets are empty, restaurants and shops closed. People stock up on instant noodles because they want to avoid going out."

South Korea's government says it is in a critical struggle to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus from the disease's epicenter in Daegu. It has given itself four weeks to stabilize the situation in the city of 2.5 million, some 150 miles southeast of the capital, Seoul.

"If authorities fail to contain the spread of the COVID-19 in Daegu, there is a high possibility that COVID-19 could spread nationwide," Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters on Monday.

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