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Yonhap News Summary

All News 13:45 May 20, 2020

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

(2nd LD) S. Korea grapples with virus uptick amid cluster infections

SEOUL -- South Korea's new virus cases rose by the highest number in nine days Wednesday amid looming mass infections at a major hospital in Seoul and a rise in nightclub-linked cases.

An uptick in virus cases put health authorities on higher alert over further community spread as high school seniors began to return to schools following a monthslong school closure over the pandemic.

(2nd LD) U.S. official voices confidence about defense cost-sharing deal with S. Korea

SEOUL -- A senior U.S. diplomat said Wednesday he is "very confident" the United States and South Korea will find a way forward in their stalled defense cost-sharing negotiations as both sides are working very hard to break the deadlock.

Marc Knapper, deputy assistant secretary of state for Korea and Japan, made the remarks during a video-linked seminar on the alliance, amid concerns the delay in the conclusion of the talks could erode the allies' cooperation in other areas.

(LEAD) Schools reopen for high school seniors amid lingering virus fears

SEOUL -- Schools finally reopened Wednesday after a monthslong closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, putting to the test the government ability to control outbreaks at schools.

In a phased reopening plan, high school seniors became the first group to attend in-person classes, 79 days after the original semester start day of March 2. The other students, including preschoolers, will return to school by June 8.

(2nd LD) S. Korea to step up efforts for post-pandemic economic recovery

SEJONG -- South Korea will step up efforts for an economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic as the nation is returning to normal activities, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said Wednesday.

Hong made the remarks at a meeting with economy-related ministers as schools reopened for high school seniors, about 80 days later than the original semester start day of March 2.

(LEAD) Capital area sees resurgence in COVID-19 cases following club, hospital infections

SEOUL -- Nearly 30 new coronavirus infections were reported in the capital area, data showed Wednesday, raising alert over possible chain transmissions traced to nightspots and a key hospital in the populous area.

Infections in Seoul and surrounding Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, west of Seoul, came to 28 as of midnight, with community transmissions accounting for 22 of the total, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Six-term ruling party lawmaker on course to become parliamentary speaker

SEOUL -- A six-term lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party is on course to become the inaugural speaker for the National Assembly's new term, party officials said Wednesday.

Rep. Park Byeong-seug was one of the party's two powerful contenders for the position of National Assembly speaker.

U.S. senator urges inclusion of N.K. aid measures in coronavirus relief bill

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. senator has urged the Senate leadership to include measures to streamline aid to North Korea in a future coronavirus relief package.

The proposal by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), ranking member of the East Asia Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was sent in a May 15 letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, according to a press release posted on Markey's website Monday.

Q1 household debt growth slowest in 1 year due to virus outbreak

SEOUL -- South Korea's household debt grew at the slowest pace in one year in the first quarter, central bank data showed Wednesday, amid a sharp decline in spending apparently caused by the new coronavirus outbreak that is expected to hurt the whole economy.

Outstanding household credit came to 1,611.3 trillion won (US$1.31 trillion) as of the end of March, up 11 trillion won from a revised 1,600.2 trillion won tallied three months earlier, according to preliminary data from the Bank of Korea (BOK).

S. Korea sees 2010 sanctions on N. Korea as no hindrance to inter-Korean exchange

SEOUL -- A set of sanctions slapped on North Korea over its deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010 has since been softened and no longer poses any obstacle to inter-Korean exchanges, the unification ministry said Wednesday.

Ministry spokesman Yoh Sang-key made the remark as South Korea marked the 10th anniversary of the sweeping sanctions that the South imposed on the North after the communist nation sank the South Korean warship Cheonan and killed 46 sailors.

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