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Yonhap News Summary

All News 13:30 April 23, 2020

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

(2nd LD) With slowdown in new virus cases, S. Korea prepares for another potential wave

SEOUL -- South Korea reported another single-digit number of new coronavirus cases Thursday, as the country's strict social distancing campaign and enhanced quarantine measures have helped contain the spread of the virus.

The country added eight new virus cases, bringing the nation's total infections to 10,702, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

(2nd LD) S. Korean economy shrinks 1.4 pct in Q1 amid virus fallout, sharpest contraction since 2008

SEOUL -- South Korea's economy shrank 1.4 percent on-quarter in the first quarter of this year, as the coronavirus pandemic crippled industrial output, consumer spending and job markets, the Bank of Korea (BOK) said Thursday.

It marked the sharpest quarterly contraction since the fourth quarter of 2008, when the nation's economy sank 3.3 percent on-quarter.

S. Korea designates rail construction on east coast as inter-Korean cooperative project

SEOUL -- South Korea on Thursday designated a rail construction project along the east coast as an inter-Korean cooperative business as part of efforts to kick-start a long-suspended move to reconnect railways across the border with North Korea.

A civilian-government committee on inter-Korean exchanges made the decision for the construction of a 110.9-kilometer-long railway, paving the way for the project to move forward in a speedier manner without a preliminary feasibility study.

(LEAD) S. Korea approves merger between budget carriers

SEJONG/SEOUL -- South Korea's antitrust regulator said Thursday it approved a deal by Jeju Air Co., the nation's largest budget carrier, to buy smaller rival Eastar Jet Co., as the airline industry scrambles to survive over plunging demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Jeju Air signed the deal to buy a 51.17 percent stake in Eastar Jet from Eastar Holdings for 54.5 billion won (US$45 million) in March as part of its expansion strategy.

(LEAD) Top U.S. military official assumes N.K. leader still in control of armed forces

WASHINGTON -- A top U.S. military official said Wednesday he assumes North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is still in full control of his country's armed forces despite reports he may be seriously ill.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten said he has no information to add to the reports about Kim's health.

(LEAD) Pompeo: U.S. is watching closely what's happening in N. Korea

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the United States is watching closely what's happening inside North Korea amid reports that its leader Kim Jong-un is seriously ill, but gave no other details.

"As the president said last evening ... we're watching closely what's taking place there, but I don't have anything to add," he said during a press briefing.

Business as usual in N.K. amid rumors on leader's health: official

SEOUL -- North Korea appears to be conducting business as usual without any abnormal signs, a unification ministry official said Thursday, amid persisting speculation over leader Kim Jong-un's health condition.

Speculation about Kim's health problems spiked after CNN reported earlier this week that the U.S. has intelligence that Kim is in "grave danger" after a surgery. South Korean officials have rejected the speculation, saying no unusual signs have been detected that suggest something may be wrong with Kim's health.

Seoul stocks extend gains on rebounding oil prices, easing virus woes

SEOUL -- South Korean stocks extended gains late Thursday morning as rebounding oil prices and easing worries over the coronavirus outbreak boosted investor sentiment.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 14.21 points, or 0.75 percent, to 1,910.36 as of 11:15 a.m. The main index ended up 0.9 percent at 1,896.15 on Wednesday after shedding 1.8 percent in the previous two sessions.

Musicals, theatrical plays resume on softened social distancing

SEOUL -- Some blockbuster musicals and theatrical plays, which have been on hold for weeks due to the novel coronavirus epidemic, have resumed onstage performances as social distancing guidelines were eased in South Korea.

The musical "The Phantom of the Opera," which has been suspended since April 1 as two of its cast members were confirmed with COVID-19, will reopen its Seoul run from Thursday at Blue Square Interpark Hall in central Seoul.

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