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Yonhap News Summary

All News 13:30 January 13, 2017

The following is the first summary of major stories moved by Yonhap News Agency on Friday.

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(LEAD) Samsung heir claims Park demanded payment to Choi: official

SEOUL -- Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Group's de facto leader, has claimed that President Park Geun-hye forced his company to provide billions of won to various organizations linked to her confidante at the center of a corruption scandal, an official said Friday.

Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., made the claim to a special probe team investigating the widening scandal involving Park and her friend Choi Soon-sil, the official close to the team said. His latest statement does not match what he said at a parliamentary hearing held last month. At the time, Lee said the president only talked about matters related to the conglomerate and its investment plans during a private meeting in 2015.

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(LEAD) BOK holds key rate steady at 1.25 pct in Jan.

SEOUL -- South Korea's central bank on Friday held its key rate steady for the seventh straight month as it remains cautious about financial stability amid slowing growth.

The Bank of Korea maintained its policy rate at an all-time low of 1.25 percent in January after sending the rate to the lowest level to support the growth of Asia's fourth-biggest economy.

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(LEAD) Snags emerge in Samsung's businesses as Lee quizzed in corruption scandal

SEOUL -- Samsung Group, South Korea's biggest business conglomerate, is bracing for a possible leadership vacuum as the group's de facto chief, Lee Jae-yong, was questioned as a suspect in the corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.

Special prosecutors investigating the scandal questioned the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics for about 22 hours, and they are considering seeking an arrest warrant against Lee, the only son of ailing Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee.

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BOK slashes growth outlook of S. Korea's economy to 2.5 pct

SEOUL -- South Korea's central bank on Friday revised down its growth outlook for Asia's fourth-largest economy to 2.5 percent from 2.8 percent, citing sluggish domestic demand.

BOK Governor Lee Ju-yeol announced the estimate in a news conference after the BOK Monetary Policy Board maintained its policy rate at an all-time low of 1.25 percent in January.

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S. Korea, U.S. hold 4th joint committee meeting on FTA

SEJONG -- South Korea and the United States held a follow-up meeting on the bilateral free trade pact amid rising concerns over renegotiations sparked by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, the trade ministry here said Friday.

Deputy Trade Minister Lee In-ho and his U.S. counterpart Michael Beeman convened the fourth round of talks under the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (KORUS FTA) joint committee in Seoul on Thursday to review the implementation of the accord and discuss pending trade issues between the two countries, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

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S. Korea voices regret over N.K.'s comment on frayed inter-Korean ties

SEOUL -- South Korea on Friday expressed regrets over North Korea's move to pass the buck to Seoul for the frayed inter-Korean ties, saying that Pyongyang should first give up nuclear weapons if it hopes to improve relations.

North Korea's Consultative Council for National Reconciliation said Thursday that South Korea is responsible for the frozen inter-Korean relations as its "confrontation racket and war frenzy" spiked tensions on the divided peninsula.

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Opposition parties differ on Ban's presidential ambitions

SEOUL -- Former U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon's homecoming heated up presidential politics in South Korea on Friday as party reactions ranged from ignorance to rebukes and to wholehearted welcome.

Ban reiterated his presidential ambitions upon arriving home on Thursday after serving two terms as secretary general.

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Mattis: U.S. is stronger when upholding treaty obligations

WASHINGTON -- Incoming U.S. President Donald Trump's pick for defense secretary said Thursday the U.S. is "stronger when we uphold our treaty obligations," a remark that runs directly counter to Trump's campaign suggestion the U.S. should consider ending protection of allies unless they pay more.

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis also said he knows of no plan to pull American troops out of South Korea and Japan, and pledged to work closely with Seoul and other allies to counter growing nuclear and missile threats from the North.

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Half of non-tariff barriers to S. Korea come from China

SEOUL -- More than half of non-trade barriers set by foreign countries against South Korea came from China, the Seoul government said Friday, stoking concerns about outbound shipments to Seoul's largest trading partner.

Out of 49 non-tariff measures against South Korean goods, Beijing accounted for 26 as of October 2016, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Korea International Trade Association said.

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