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Yonhap News Summary

Yonhap News Summary 13:30 December 31, 2020

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

(2nd LD) S. Korea to decide level of virus curbs this week amid no letup in virus resurgence

SEOUL -- South Korea said Thursday it will decide this week whether to raise the social distancing scheme to the highest level or maintain the current second-highest measures amid no signs of a letup in the coronavirus resurgence.

The country's new virus infections fell below 1,000 Thursday for the first time in three days but the level of new cases remains still high due mainly to cluster infections from churches, private gatherings and other facilities.

(2nd LD) S. Korea's consumer prices grow less than 1 pct for 3rd month in Dec.

SEOUL -- South Korea's consumer prices grew less than 1 percent for the third straight month in December, data showed Thursday, indicating low inflationary pressure in Asia's fourth-largest economy amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

For the whole year, the annual inflation rose by less than 1 percent for the second consecutive year for the first time due largely to the fallout of the pandemic.

New S. Korean, Japanese envoys expected to take office next month: sources

SEOUL -- South Korea and Japan are expected to inaugurate their new ambassadors to Tokyo and Seoul, respectively, next month after they recently endorsed each other's designations, multiple sources said Thursday.

Last week, Tokyo gave diplomatic consent to Seoul's designation of Kang Chang-il, a former four-term ruling party lawmaker, while its nomination of Koichi Aiboshi, the current ambassador to Israel, has also been endorsed by Seoul, the sources said.

(LEAD) S. Korea imposes highest-tier social distancing rules on prison facilities

SEOUL -- South Korea on Thursday imposed the highest-tier social distancing measures on prison facilities nationwide, banning visits and canceling all work and classes to break the trend of mass coronavirus infections among inmates.

The Level 3 restrictions will be in force for two weeks until Jan. 13 and aim to minimize contact between and among inmates, outside visitors and the prison staff. Meetings with lawyers will be restricted and all staff will work on a reduced schedule.

N. Korea's rare party congress appears imminent as delegates arrive in Pyongyang

SEOUL -- North Korean delegates participating in an upcoming congress of the ruling Workers' Party have gathered in Pyongyang and were awarded certificates, state media said Thursday, raising the possibility that the meeting could take place as early as this week.

The upcoming session, which will be the first party congress in four years, has drawn keen attention as the North is expected to unveil a new economic development plan and could announce its new policy line on the United States and South Korea.

(Yonhap Feature) Protracted COVID-19 pandemic reshapes Korean wedding scenes

SEOUL -- With the wedding aisle adorned with a load of white and pink flowers and fancy dining tables decorated for the occasion, 38-year-old Choi Yu-mi's wedding looked like a typically lavish Korean marriage ceremony, except that the wedding hall held only dozens of guests, not hundreds.

Tables laden with flower decorations, instead of wedding dinnerware, were placed between each guest table, while only four people were allowed at one big round guest table that usually accommodates up to eight people.

Unification ministry to scale up financial support for N. Korea aid groups

SEOUL -- The unification ministry said Thursday it will allow North Korea aid groups to receive state financial support multiple times a year in an effort to facilitate humanitarian assistance to the impoverished nation.

Currently, local nongovernmental organizations providing aid to the North can each receive financial support from the ministry once a year. The aid groups are also required to self-finance at least 50 percent of the costs for projects subject to state support.

S. Korea expected to roll out its own coronavirus vaccine late next year, PM says

SEOUL -- South Korea will be able to develop its own COVID-19 vaccine late next year, in addition to foreign products to be shipped here in the near future, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Thursday.

He was speaking in public at the outset of an interagency meeting on the virus response.

S. Korea's bird flu countermeasures put to test as farm-linked caseload nears 40

SEOUL -- South Korea was struggling to contain the spread of highly pathogenic bird flu among local poultry farms as the number of such cases reached nearly 40 on Thursday, but the influx of migratory birds continued to strain the antivirus fight.

The latest highly contagious H5N8 strain of bird flu was found from a duck farm in Gimpo, just north of Seoul, on the previous day, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Nominee dismisses concerns about excessive power of new graft investigation body

SEOUL -- The nominee for the chief of a high-profile corruption investigation agency on Thursday dismissed concerns the new body would exercise unchecked power, as he began preparations for his confirmation hearing.

Kim Jin-wook, a 54-year-old former judge, was selected by President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday as the inaugural chief of the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO).

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