The following is the first summary of major stories moved by Yonhap News Agency on Thursday.
Park absent again from impeachment trial
SEOUL -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye was again absent from her impeachment trial Thursday as the Constitutional Court proceeded to review the critical case.
Park, whose presidential powers have been suspended pending the court's decision, was asked to appear to give testimony after she failed to show up for the first formal hearing Tuesday. The law does not require her attendance and her lawyers have said she is unlikely to appear for future proceedings.
People's Party hopes to recruit Ban if he's 'conservative reformist'
SEOUL -- The floor leader of South Korea's minor opposition People's Party on Thursday invited former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to join in the party's in-house competition to pick its presidential candidate.
In an interview with Yonhap News Agency, Rep. Joo Seung-yong said the party could change its primary rules and even its name if necessary to draw competent presidential contenders, also including former opposition leader Sohn Hak-kyu and former Prime Minister Chung Un-chan.
Revision on election age uncertain as new party withdraws support
SEOUL -- South Korean opposition parties' bid to lower the minimum voting age before the next presidential election faces hurdles as a planned conservative splinter party on Thursday withdrew its support for the proposal.
The opposition bloc, led by the Democratic Party, seeks to revise the election law to reduce the age limit by a year to 18, a move that polls indicate benefit liberals who are usually popular among young people.
N.K. leader makes his first inspection in new year
SEOUL -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has visited a newly built bag factory, Pyongyang's media said Thursday, marking his first inspection of this year, apparently aimed at showing that he cares about people's livelihoods.
Kim gave what the North calls field guidance to the Pyongyang Bag Factory, which was built in July last year, and produces school and ordinary bags, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
U.S. watching N. Korea very closely: State Department
WASHINGTON -- The United States takes North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's rhetoric on intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities seriously and is keeping a close watch on the communist nation, the State Department said Wednesday.
"We are forced by his actions in the past to take his rhetoric seriously and we do. We can discuss intelligence issues, one way or the other, in terms of what assessment we might make of where he is on this particular issue. But obviously, it's something that we're watching very closely," State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a briefing.
Parliament starts debate on constitutional revision
SEOUL -- Lawmakers kicked off the debate to rewrite the Constitution Thursday amid growing consensus to limit excessive presidential powers acutely brought home to South Koreans by a recent scandal involving President Park Geun-hye.
A bipartisan parliamentary committee on the amendment held its first meeting, electing Rep. Lee Ju-young of the ruling Saenuri Party to chair the 36-member panel.
Rating downgrades for major shipyards in the offing
SEOUL -- South Korea's major shipyards may see their credit ratings downgraded in the coming months due to falling new orders and worsening financial status, industry sources said Thursday.
According to the sources, the combined annual new orders clinched by the country's big three shipbuilders -- Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. and Samsung Heavy Industries Co. -- stood at US$9.1 billion in the first 11 months of last year, sharply down from $24.3 billion in 2015, $42 billion in 2014 and $54.3 billion in 2013, as low oil prices and a slowdown in the global economy reduced demand for new ships.
New party lawmaker condemns opposition's visit to China on THAAD
SEOUL -- Rep. Yoo Seong-min, a presidential hopeful from the proposed New Conservative Party for Reform, condemned the visit by opposition lawmakers to China on Thursday, stressing that talks with Beijing on the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system is tantamount to "betrayal."
A group of opposition lawmakers, who have opposed the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the country, earlier visited Beijing to exchange views on the latest tension between the two countries.
S. Korea aims for $510 bln in exports in 2017
SEJONG -- South Korea will post a total of US$510 billion in exports for 2017 through reorganizing its industrial portfolio and focusing on higher-added-value consumer goods and services, the government said Thursday.
In its annual policy plan submitted to Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said the country's exports will rebound to grow 2.9 percent on-year this year, snapping the losing streak for the second consecutive year.
Regulator to focus on structural change in household debt
SEOUL -- South Korea's financial authorities said Thursday that they will place top priority on reining in household debt this year through a "structural shift" in the borrowing practice.
In a report to Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn on its policy direction, the Financial Services Commission (FSC) pointed out the structural vulnerabilities of the nation's household credit totaling more than 1,300 trillion won (US$1,077 billion).
Samsung Electronics aims to connect more products to Internet
LAS VEGAS -- South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics Co. aims to connect more products to the Internet this year, company officials said Wednesday, bolstering its push for the next major evolution of the Internet that could change how people live and work.
Samsung unveiled its latest products at the annual Consumer Electronics Show this week. Among the new products were a super-ultra high-definition TV with quantum dot technology, its first-ever gaming laptop and the new Chromebook for Google Play.
KOSPI-listed firms' net profits top 100 tln won in 2016: analysts
SEOUL -- South Korean companies listed on the country's main KOSPI market are estimated to have reaped a record net profit of more than 100 trillion won (US$84 billion) in 2016, market analysts said Thursday.
But it was mainly attributable to cost-cutting and other belt-tightening measures rather than a sharp increase in sales, they pointed out.
31 diabetes drugs banned for suspected carcinogen substance
Summer to be hotter this year with occasional torrential rain: weather agency
Five more foreigners deported for breaching self-isolation rules
(LEAD) KBO bans ex-major leaguer Kang Jung-ho for 1 year before potential return
(LEAD) Itaewon cluster grows to 237, six stages of transmission confirmed
(LEAD) Logistics center-linked virus cases snowball to 69, emerging as another cluster in greater Seoul
(LEAD) S. Korea's virus fight in trouble amid new cluster, daily infections at 2-month high
S. Korea to enhance quarantine measures in greater Seoul area amid spiking cases
U.S. nuclear forces are ready and deter all adversaries, including N. Korea: Pentagon official
2.8 magnitude quake hits southern region