Lauren Frayer

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.

Before moving to India, Lauren was a regular freelance contributor to NPR for seven years, based in Madrid. During that time, she substituted for NPR bureau chiefs in Seoul, London, Istanbul, Islamabad, and Jerusalem. She also served as a guest host of Weekend Edition Sunday.

In Europe, Lauren chronicled the economic crisis in Spain & Portugal, where youth unemployment spiked above 50%. She profiled a Portuguese opera singer-turned protest leader, and a 90-year-old survivor of the Spanish Civil War, exhuming her father's remains from a 1930s-era mass grave. From Paris, Lauren reported live on NPR's Morning Edition, as French police moved in on the Charlie Hebdo terror suspects. In the fall of 2015, Lauren spent nearly two months covering the flow of migrants & refugees across Hungary & the Balkans – and profiled a Syrian rapper among them. She interviewed a Holocaust survivor who owed his life to one kind stranger, and managed to get a rare interview with the Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders – by sticking her microphone between his bodyguards in the Hague.

Farther afield, she introduced NPR listeners to a Pakistani TV evangelist, a Palestinian surfer girl in Gaza, and K-pop performers campaigning in South Korea's presidential election.

Lauren has also contributed to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the BBC.

Her international career began in the Middle East, where she was an editor on the Associated Press' Middle East regional desk in Cairo, and covered the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in Syria and southern Lebanon. In 2007, she spent a year embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, an assignment for which the AP nominated her and her colleagues for a Pulitzer Prize.

On a break from journalism, Lauren drove a Land Rover across Africa for a year, from Cairo to Cape Town, sleeping in a tent on the car's roof. She once made the front page of a Pakistani newspaper, simply for being a woman commuting to work in Islamabad on a bicycle.

Born and raised in a suburb of New York City, Lauren holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from The College of William & Mary in Virginia. She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, rusty French and Arabic, and is now learning Hindi.

Jeon Chung-won tends sheep on the hilly farm where he was born in PyeongChang, a rural county a few hours' drive east of South Korea's capital Seoul.

"It's a simple, peaceful place where the mountain air hugs you," says Jeon, 32. "I really love this place."

Only a handful of domestic tourists typically come to PyeongChang, to hike green hills dotted with Buddhist temples or visit a small ski station nearby. But that is about to change.

Hidden in green hills east of South Korea's capital is the House of Sharing, a nursing home for elderly women.

It's a bright, spacious place. But its residents are survivors of a dark chapter of history.

"It was 1942 and I was only 15, running an errand for my parents [in our Korean hometown of Busan], when two Japanese men in uniform grabbed me by the arms and dragged me away," recalls Lee Ok-seon, now age 90. "That's how I became enslaved."

She was sent to work in a brothel in a Japanese-occupied area of northeast China.

Watching footage of April's military parades in North Korea — with soldiers marching in formation to patriotic tunes — Lee So-yeon recalls all the steps. She was once one of those soldiers.

The daughter of a university professor, Lee, now 41, grew up in North Korea's North Hamgyong province. But when famine devastated the country in the 1990s, women — including Lee — volunteered for the military in droves, often for the food rations.

North Korean state media said Monday that the missile Pyongyang test-fired on Sunday is a new weapon, able to carry a heavy nuclear warhead to unprecedented distances — possibly as far as U.S. soil.

A liberal human rights lawyer born to North Korean refugees has won South Korea's presidential election with a promise to improve the economy and hold talks with the nuclear-armed North.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In 2009, a close aide to former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun, who had left office a year earlier, took to a podium on live TV. He looked pale and distraught.

He announced that the former president had taken his own life.

It was a dramatic moment in South Korea. It was also when South Koreans first got to know the man who looks likely to be their next president: Moon Jae-in, that former presidential aide.

Next to a river flowing from lush green hills, Lim Sun-bun, 64, tills her land — onions, garlic, potatoes and peppers.

She's lived in rural Seongju county, about 130 miles from Seoul in the southeastern region of the Korean Peninsula, all her life. It's a quiet, conservative, agricultural place, famous for growing melons.

But this past winter, Lim started hearing U.S. helicopters overhead.

"They fly low, and it's scary," she says. "No one asked us if we want to host this U.S. base. I'm worried about contamination of this river — our livelihood."

With tensions rising over North Korea's nuclear program, you might expect panic in South Korea — air raid drills or schoolchildren climbing under their desks, Cold-War-style.

But I found an altogether different scene in the capital, Seoul, when I arrived last week: parade floats and pop music.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

At a pro-U.S. rally in central Seoul over the weekend, supporters of impeached South Korean President Park Geun-hye chanted for the destruction of their enemy, North Korea. They've formed an encampment outside City Hall, where they express support for Park and the U.S., and criticize left-wing politicians.

Park was removed from office in March, a first in South Korea's history. She goes on trial Tuesday for corruption, and faces life in prison if convicted. On May 9, there's a presidential election to replace her.

Just six years after Portugal's 2011 financial bailout sparked protests and sent the country's young people abroad in search of work, the country is experiencing an economic revival.

Mario Mouraz was one of those who left Portugal looking for work. Now, after three years abroad, he's back, selling his own software to Lisbon hotels in the middle of a tourist boom.

Gandelina Damião, 78, is permanently hunched, carrying her sorrow. She lost three children to heroin in the 1990s.

A quarter century ago, her cobblestone lane, up a grassy hill from Lisbon's Tagus River, was littered with syringes. She recalls having to search for her teenagers in graffitied stone buildings nearby, where they would shoot up.

"It was a huge blow," Damião says, pointing to framed photos on her wall of Paulo, Miguel and Liliana. "I was a good mother. I never gave them money for drugs. But I couldn't save them."

Every rush hour, bumper-to-bumper traffic belches out diesel fumes along Madrid's Gran Via, a six-lane artery that bisects the Spanish capital. Art Deco facades line the grand boulevard.

But they're blackened with soot.

"The pollution hurts my eyes, and I can feel it in my throat," says commuter María Villallega, 48, who lives in the city center and walks to work. "I don't own a car myself, and I'll be happy when they're not allowed here anymore. We need to protect the planet, and ourselves."

In recent years, Spain has had a devastating economic crash, an influx of migrants and corruption scandals that left people fed up with politicians. All these factors might make Spain fertile ground for the sort of right-wing, anti-immigrant political parties gaining ground in other parts of Europe. But unlike much of the continent, Spain has no such far-right movement.

Why?

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