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Yonhap News Summary

Yonhap News Summary 13:30 January 05, 2021

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

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U.S. urges 'immediate release' of Korean tanker from Iran

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. State Department on Monday called on Iran to immediately release a South Korea-flagged tanker it detained.

The State Department argued Iran's detention of the South Korean tanker may be part of an attempt to force the international community to remove its sanctions on the country.

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S. Korean unit begins operations in Hormuz Strait after Iran's oil tanker seizure

SEOUL, Jan. 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's anti-piracy unit began operations in the Strait of Hormuz Tuesday to respond to heightened tensions after Iran's seizure of a South Korean oil tanker, officials said.

On Monday, Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps seized the tanker, MT Hankuk Chemi, due to what Teheran claims to be environmental and chemical pollution by the ship.

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New cases fall back sharply to 715 amid extended tighter virus curbs

SEOUL -- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases fell back sharply to slightly over 700 on Tuesday as the country extended tougher social distancing guidelines and stepped up monitoring of nursing homes and other virus-prone facilities.

The country added 715 more COVID-19 cases, including 672 local infections, raising the total caseload to 64,979, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

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(LEAD) COVID-19 deaths top 1,000, marks fast growth in past month

SEOUL -- The number of deaths from the new coronavirus surpassed the 1,000 mark in South Korea, with the third wave of the pandemic having accelerated the growth of new fatalities in the past month.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said the country reported 28 additional deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total fatalities to 1,007.

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N. Korea shows no sign of 'major provocation' for now: USFK chief

WASHINGTON -- North Korea is not showing any signs of preparation to stage a major provocation at least for now, the chief of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said Monday.

"I say that we are not seeing any indicators that suggest that there would be a major provocation. But that's today. That could change next week," Gen. Robert Abrams said when asked if North Korea may stage a military provocation before or after the Jan. 20 inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden.

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Spending on alcohol, tobacco hits record high in Q3 amid pandemic

SEOUL -- South Koreans' spending on liquor and cigarettes reached an all-time high in the third quarter of 2020 amid the coronavirus outbreak, central bank data showed Tuesday.

Local households spent 4.3 trillion won (US$3.96 billion) on alcohol and cigarettes in the July-September period, up 6.2 percent from a year earlier, according to the data from the Bank of Korea.

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Celltrion to release clinical study data of COVID-19 treatment next week

SEOUL -- South Korea's pharmaceutical giant Celltrion Inc. is expected to release the outcome of its second phase clinical study of anti-COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment later this month, company officials said Tuesday.

The Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety is currently reviewing conditional approval of CT-P59, also known as Regdanvimab, a move that could potentially lead to manufacturing and sales of the first homegrown treatment.

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N. Korea remains silent on rare party congress

SEOUL -- North Korea has not reported yet on whether it has launched a highly anticipated party congress set to be held early this month amid expectations that Pyongyang will unveil its policy line on the United States and South Korea at the upcoming event.

North Korea earlier said that it would hold the eighth congress of the ruling Workers' Party in early January for the first time in over four years, and state media earlier reported that delegates have arrived in Pyongyang to participate in the meeting.

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Gov't aims for over 60 pct virus vaccination, herd immunity formation before fall: PM

SEOUL -- South Korea is pushing to move up the schedule in bringing in new coronavirus vaccines in a bid to get over half of the population inoculated before fall, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun has said.

"The government's program is to complete the formation of herd immunity by inoculating 60-70 percent of the population (with vaccines) before autumn comes," Chung said Monday on a debate program on MBC TV.

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BTS hit 'Dynamite' rebounds to No. 5 on Billboard Hot 100

SEOUL -- The chart-topping BTS hit "Dynamite" has rebounded to the fifth spot on the chart, the Billboard reported Monday (U.S. time).

The U.S. music magazine, which compiles the 100 most popular tracks of the week in the United States for the Hot 100, said the BTS track jumped 39 notches from 44th to fifth in the weekly chart dated Jan. 9.

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Finance minister, BOK chief warn of 'one-sided' cash flow into asset markets

SEOUL -- South Korea's top economic policymaker and the chief of the central bank said Tuesday that more prudent risk management is necessary as much of the idle money is flowing into assets, such as property and stocks.

"The financial market showed stability in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are growing concerns over the growing gap between the real economy and the financial sector," Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said in a message for the new year to financial firms.

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Gyms reopen in defiance of coronavirus restrictions

SEOUL -- A growing number of gym owners have reopened their businesses this week in defiance of the government's coronavirus restrictions, claiming the rules are unfair and putting their livelihoods at stake.

Indoor gyms in the capital area are subject to an assembly ban under Level 2.5 social distancing measures, which were recently extended by two weeks until Jan. 17. In announcing the extension, however, the government allowed ballet and taekwondo schools to hold classes of up to nine people, sparking an outcry among gym owners.

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Moon prioritizes virus control, housing market stabilization in 2021 policy tasks

SEOUL -- President Moon Jae-in stressed the urgency Tuesday of containing COVID-19, stabilizing the housing market and recovering the economy in the new year.

"(We) start the new year with a heavy sense of responsibility," he said at the outset of the first Cabinet meeting of 2021.

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