Anthony Kuhn | New Hampshire Public Radio

Anthony Kuhn

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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.

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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.

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Updated at 5:25 a.m. ET Wednesday

President Trump has requested test kits from South Korea to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.

According to a readout from the Blue House, as the presidential office here is known, a 23-minute phone call with President Moon Jae-in was initiated at the "urgent request" of Trump.

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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."

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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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Updated at 5:30 p.m.

As China's neighbors battle the spread of the coronavirus, one nation in particular is arousing international concern: North Korea. While the country publicly insists it is completely free of the virus, and a World Health Organization official has said there are "no indications" so far of COVID-19 infection there, experts question how long that may be the case.

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Some fans of South Korea's K-pop music are mourning the death of one of its stars. As NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Seoul, the 25-year-old singer and actress was known for being unusually outspoken.

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North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday — possibly from a submarine — just days ahead of the expected resumption of nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea after a seven-month hiatus.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff says the missile was fired from waters off the peninsula's east coast, near the port city of Wonsan, and traveled about 280 miles to the east before landing in the Sea of Japan.

South Korea's National Security Council standing committee held a meeting after the test and voiced its "strong concern."

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