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Yonhap News Summary

All News 13:30 February 24, 2021

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

New virus cases bounce back to over 400 ahead of vaccine rollout

SEOUL -- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases bounced back to over 400 on Wednesday on continued cluster infections across the country ahead of the country's COVID-19 vaccine rollout this week.

The country reported 440 more virus cases, including 417 local infections, raising the total caseload to 88,120, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

S. Korea's exports tipped to rise 8.9 pct in February: poll

SEOUL -- South Korea's exports are expected to rise 8.9 percent on-year in February to extend gains for a fourth month on robust shipments of chips and automobiles, a poll showed Wednesday.

The country's outbound shipments are expected to reach US$44.5 billion this month, according to the poll by Yonhap Infomax, the financial news arm of Yonhap News Agency. The survey was conducted on six local brokerage houses.

(LEAD) U.S. missile defense 'clearly focused' on N. Korea: Gen. Hyten

WASHINGTON -- The United States' missile defense capability is "clearly" focused on North Korea and must continue to advance to meet evolving threats from the country, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday.

Gen. John Hyten argued the North poses one of the most immediate threats to the U.S. in that the country has a real potential of using its weapons against the U.S.

(LEAD) U.S., S. Korea may discuss Iran sanctions but no money transferred yet: State Dept.

WASHINGTON -- The United States and South Korea may discuss the proposed release of Iranian funds held in South Korea, but no money has yet been transferred, a State Department spokesman said Tuesday, noting the allies often discuss such issues.

Ned Price said it would not be a surprise if the allies are already in such discussions, but noted no money has been transferred yet.

Manufacturers' business sentiment rises for 2nd month in March

SEOUL -- South Korean manufacturers' business sentiment rose for the second straight month in March, but worries about sluggish consumption remained amid the coronavirus pandemic, central bank data showed Wednesday.

The business sentiment index (BSI) for local manufacturers came to 85 for March, up from 81 for February, according to the data from the Bank of Korea (BOK).

S. Korea approves alternative military duty for first objector for personal beliefs

SEOUL -- South Korea has approved a male citizen's request to substitute his mandatory military service for other public service due to his personal beliefs, marking the first such case other than those citing religious reasons, the military manpower agency said Wednesday.

By law, all able-bodied South Korean men must carry out military service for about two years. But the National Assembly passed a bill in 2019 allowing those who refuse to take up arms for religious or other personal beliefs to do other forms of service without punishment.

S. Korea suffers 1st population decline last year on record low births

SEOUL -- South Korea reported the first natural decline in population last year as the number of deaths outpaced that of newborns amid the country's rapid aging and chronic low birth rate, data showed Wednesday.

The number of newborns came to a record low of 272,400 last year, down 10 percent, or 30,300, from a year earlier, according to preliminary data provided by the Statistics Korea.

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