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Yonhap News Summary

All Headlines 17:20 February 27, 2019

The following is the second summary of major stories moved by Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday.

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S. Korea to invest 2 tln won in R&D in bio-health sector

SEONGNAM, South Korea, Feb. 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's finance minister said Wednesday that the government will invest 2 trillion won (US$1.7 billion) in research and development in the bio-health sector in the latest attempt to secure a new growth engine for Asia's fourth-largest economy.

The investment will be funneled for development of new drugs and medical devices and equipment, as well as the establishment of big data platforms, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Hong Nam-ki, the minister of economy and finance, also said the government will provide support to bio-health venture firms to ensure the number of the so-called Rising Star companies, with annual sales of more than 30 billion won, reaches more than 150.

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(2nd LD) (US-NK summit) Trump says N. Korea can thrive like Vietnam
(ATTN: UPDATES with Trump's meeting with Vietnamese leader in paras 4-7, report of tentative deal in paras 21-22, details of N.K. officials' tour in last paras; ADDS photo)

HANOI -- Hours ahead of a high-stakes meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the communist nation will prosper fast like Vietnam if it denuclearizes.

"Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize," Trump tweeted in his first public message about Pyongyang since arriving in Hanoi a day earlier.

He added: "The potential is AWESOME, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un. We will know fairly soon - Very Interesting!"

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(2nd LD) (US-NK summit) Trump says N.K. has 'awesome' potential if it denuclearizes
(ATTN: UPDATES with background, another Trump tweet in last 4 paras)

HANOI -- U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the economic potential for North Korea is "awesome" if Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear weapons program.

Trump made the remark in a Twitter posting, just hours before he meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi to kick off a two-day summit on the North's denuclearization. In return for denuclearization, the U.S. has dangled the prospect of sanctions relief and foreign investment in the isolated state.

"Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize," Trump tweeted. "The potential is AWESOME, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un. We will know fairly soon - Very Interesting!."

Just over a year ago the two men hurled personal insults at each other over the North's testing of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Trump called Kim "Little Rocket Man," while the North Korean leader referred to the U.S. president as a "dotard."

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(2nd LD) S. Korea's total fertility rate hits record low of 0.98 in 2018
(ATTN: UPDATES with comments by finance minister)

SEJONG, Feb. 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's total fertility rate hit a record low of 0.98 in 2018, government data showed Wednesday, a clear warning that Asia's fourth-largest economy may face a population decline going forward.

The total fertility rate refers to the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime.

The 2018 figure is far below the replacement level of 2.1 that would keep South Korea's population stable at 51 million. It also represents a sharp drop from the 4.53 in 1970, when the government began to compile relevant data, according to Statistics Korea.

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(LEAD) (MWC 19) Magic Leap's AR glasses to be available in S. Korea
(ATTN: ADDS details in 4th para; CHANGES photo)

BARCELONA -- Augmented reality (AR) glasses will be available in South Korea this year as SK Telecom Co. signed an exclusive contract with the U.S. start-up Magic Leap, the Korean mobile carrier said Wednesday.

SK Telecom struck a deal to distribute Magic Leap's AR head-mount display in the Korean market, though it did not specify the launch schedule or its prices.

Magic Leap One's creator edition is currently sold at the hefty price of $2,300 in the U.S. Content and app developers are its main users.

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(LEAD) S. Korea to change criteria, procedure for setting minimum wage
(ATTN: ADDS biz community's reaction in paras 8-9, photo)

SEOUL, Feb. 27 (Yonhap) -- The government has retracted its plan to consider employers' ability to pay salaries in setting the minimum wage, officials said Wednesday.

The Ministry of Employment and Labor announced a final revision to the criteria and procedures of setting the rate after reviewing expert feedback on a draft plan announced last month. The first version had called for consideration of employment levels, economic growth rates and businesses' ability to pay wages.

"We have excluded a company's pay ability as a basis for setting the minimum pay rate while supplementing the criteria with the rate's possible impact on employment and economic conditions," Vice Labor Minister Lim Seo-jeong told a press conference.

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(LEAD) Seoul shares close higher ahead of historic summit
(ATTN: ADDS bond yields at bottom, photo)

SEOUL -- South Korean stocks closed higher Wednesday as investors grew confident over the outcome of the historic summit between Washington and Pyongyang slated for later in the day, analysts said. The local currency fell against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) moved up 8.19 points, or 0.37 percent, to 2,234.79. Trading volume was light at 296 million shares worth 4.82 trillion won (US$4.3 billion), with gainers outpacing losers 498 to 323.

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S. Korea's short-term foreign debt ratio hits 6-yr high in 2018: BOK

SEOUL -- The ratio of South Korea's short-term foreign debt to its total liabilities climbed to a six-year high last year, central bank data showed Wednesday.

The country's short-term external debt -- with a maturity of one year or less -- totaled US$126.6 billion as of the end of 2018, up $10.6 billion from a year earlier, according to the preliminary data by the Bank of Korea (BOK).

The 2018 figure accounted for 28.7 percent of the country's total external debt, up 0.6 percentage point from a year ago. It marked the highest number since 2012, when it was 31.3 percent.

The nation's total external liability reached $440.6 billion at the end-2018, up $28.6 billion from the previous year.

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S. Korea mulls economic cooperation with N. Korea

SEONGNAM -- South Korea's finance minister said Wednesday that the government is considering economic cooperation with North Korea in the event that international sanctions are eased.

Hong Nam-ki, the minister of economy and finance, said possible inter-Korean economic cooperation would give a much-needed boost to the South Korean economy, though he did not elaborate on the kind of inter-Korean economic cooperation being examined, and the definition of favorable conditions that could lead to exchange.

The policymaker made the comments during his visit to a complex of bio-health companies in Pangyo, just south of Seoul, ahead of the crucial summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

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Prosecution to summon Moon aides for questioning

SEOUL -- The prosecution is expected to summon a senior presidential secretary and former chief of staff of President Moon Jae-in in the near future for questioning over their alleged involvement in illegal surveillance of civilians, informed sources said Wednesday.

According to the sources, the Seoul public prosecutor's office investigating the case recently decided to summon all people implicated in the allegation.

They include former presidential chief of staff Im Jong-seok and Cho Kuk, the senior secretary to the president for civil affairs.

The two, along with several other presidential aides, including the chief inspector at the office of the secretary for civil affairs, have been accused of having engaged in illegal surveillance of politicians and civilians.

(END)

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