Reporter's Notebook: Settling In In Seoul : Parallels NPR opened a South Korea bureau in March. Correspondent Elise Hu offers her take on the wonder and the wackiness of life and journalism in East Asia.
NPR logo

Reporter's Notebook: Settling In In Seoul

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/460896508/461352948" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Reporter's Notebook: Settling In In Seoul

Reporter's Notebook: Settling In In Seoul

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/460896508/461352948" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And as we mark the end of the year, we've been catching up with our correspondents on some of the big stories of 2015. NPR's Elise Hu opened our South Korea bureau earlier this year. One of her biggest stories came just yesterday when Japan announced it's paying more than $8 million in restitution plus apologizing to the South Korean women who were forced into sex slavery during World War II. Elise caught up with some earlier stories with our colleague David Greene.

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: So the news, let's start with that. This deal between Japan and South Korea about comfort women. Does this surprise you?

ELISE HU, BYLINE: It did surprise me. This has been such a painful moment in history, and both sides have sort of dug in their heels until finally this week. Comfort women - that term describes women who were forced to service Japanese soldiers during World War II.

GREENE: South Korean women and girls.

HU: That's right. And really one of my huge surprises after moving to South Korea was that history issues just haven't died. There's a sense among Koreans that there wasn't a proper reckoning of the colonization of Korea by Japan. And then Japan, on the flipside, had said, you know, we've done a lot of apologizing. That sort of animosity really played out in all sorts of interesting ways. For example, I got a Samsung phone in Tokyo. Samsung, obviously, is a big Korean company. And if you get a Samsung phone in Tokyo you do not see the Samsung logo on that phone at all, and part of the reason is because of the mistrust between these two countries and the people of both countries.

GREENE: Wow. So the tension really just plays out in everyday life. You, if I remember, really hit the ground running when you arrived. You had no time to sort of settle in.

HU: That's right. I landed late at night at Incheon Airport, which is the main airport for Seoul. And the next morning, the Internet guy was getting me hooked up and there's news that the U.S. ambassador to Korea, Mark Lippert, had been slashed in the face by a North Korea sympathizer.

GREENE: I remember that.

HU: My Internet was not set up yet, and my interpreter and assistant, we hadn't met face to face yet and she was sent to a press conference at the police station right at the start.

GREENE: With no Internet even working yet. That's amazing. So what's it been like in general, opening up a bureau, moving your family abroad for the first time?

HU: It's bewildering and exciting at the same time, right? It's very different to live in a foreign country and sort of move your family there rather than just visit. For example, we're renting an apartment and we got one of those fancy Japanese toilets, which is very normal there which has all sorts of functions and buttons, and the first time my then 2-year-old daughter was in the bathroom, she pressed one of the random buttons. That activated the bidet, water starts shooting up, it starts shooting up at me, it hits me. I start screaming. She starts screaming. And it's just because the toilet was working properly.

GREENE: (Laughter) Doing the right thing. Adjusting to life in South Korea. That's NPR's Elise Hu, who is based in South Korea. She opened the bureau in Seoul this year.

Great to have you back for at least a few days Elise.

HU: Great, thanks David.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.