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Yonhap News Summary

All News 13:30 March 31, 2021

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

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(LEAD) FM Chung expresses hope for early talks with Japanese counterpart

SEOUL -- Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong expressed hope Wednesday for an early meeting with his Japanese counterpart, as South Korea seeks to improve ties with Japan in resuming diplomacy with North Korea amid the U.S.' calls for stronger trilateral cooperation with its two Asian allies.

Seoul has sought unsuccessfully to arrange phone talks between Chung and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi since Chung's inauguration last month amid tensions over wartime history and trade.

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(LEAD) New COVID-19 cases back above 500 as virus spread accelerates

SEOUL -- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases bounced back above 500 on Wednesday, in a sign that virus infections are accelerating across the country as people's movement increases amid spring weather.

The country reported 506 more COVID-19 cases, including 491 local infections, raising the total caseload to 103,088, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. It marked the highest daily tally in four days.

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Korean Air to launch Asiana-merged entity in 2024

SEOUL -- Korean Air Co., South Korea's largest airline, said Wednesday it plans to launch a merged entity with its smaller rival Asiana Airlines Ltd. in 2024 after completing a takeover process next year.

Korean Air, which announced plans to acquire the debt-ridden Asiana for 1.8 trillion won (US$1.6 billion) in November, has submitted a post-merger integration plan to the state-run Korea Development Bank (KDB), Asiana's main creditor.

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(3rd LD) Economic recovery gathers steam as industrial output growth at 8-month high in Feb.

SEOUL -- South Korea's industrial output grew at the fastest pace in eight months in February to recover to pre-pandemic levels, data showed Wednesday, in the latest sign that the economy is on a recovery track supported by exports.

The industrial output increased 2.1 percent in February from the previous month, sharply turning around from a 0.6 percent on-month decline in January, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea.

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(LEAD) Moon names new Cheong Wa Dae aides on anti-corruption, economy, digital innovation

SEOUL -- President Moon Jae-in appointed Kim Gi-pyo, a prosecutor-turned-lawyer, as his new secretary for anti-corruption, Cheong Wa Dae announced Wednesday.

The president also picked Deputy Finance Minister Lee Hyong-il as secretary for economic policy and Kim Jeong-won, information and communication policy chief at the science ministry, as secretary for digital innovation, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kang Min-seok.

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Steam detected at N. Korea's plutonium reprocessing plant: U.S. think tank

SEOUL -- Recent satellite imagery showed steam from the plutonium reprocessing plant at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex, a U.S. think tank said Wednesday, an indication of activity at the facility used to extract the key nuclear weapon ingredient.

The imagery taken on Tuesday shows a plume of steam or smoke emanating from a small support building in the center of the reprocessing plant, known as the Radiochemical Laboratory, according to Beyond Parallel, a project of the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

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Finance minister sees improvement in domestic demand, job market

SEOUL -- Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki has forecast domestic demand and the job market will gradually improve as the country is on a recovery track amid the pandemic, the finance ministry said Wednesday.

Hong made the assessment during his online meeting Tuesday with Alastair Wilson, managing director and head of the sovereign risk group of global rating agency Moody's Investors Service.

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Baseball league expands replay, makes other rule changes for 2021

SEOUL -- The South Korean baseball league will expand the use of instant replay this year, while also awarding teams an extra challenge.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said Wednesday teams can now ask for a review on the following situations to see if: a runner has scored before the third out of an inning was recorded; a runner has missed a bag; a runner passed a preceding teammate; and a runner tagged up before a catch was made.

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S. Korea to roll out vaccine against FMD by May

SEOUL -- South Korea's agricultural ministry said Wednesday it plans to roll out vaccines against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) by May as the country raises its guard against the potential outbreak of the acute infectious viral disease.

Under the plan, all cattle and goats from 117,000 farms across the nation, estimated at 4.25 million units, will be required to receive the jabs, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

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FM Chung to visit China for talks with Wang this week

SEOUL -- Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong will visit China later this week for talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, to discuss bilateral ties, the Korean Peninsula situation and regional and global issues, the foreign ministry said Wednesday.

Chung and Wang are set to hold their first in-person meeting in their current capacities in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen on Saturday, amid renewed regional tensions caused by North Korea's recent missile launches and an escalating Sino-U.S. rivalry.

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(News Focus) Q1 brisk orders portend sharp turnaround for S. Korean shipbuilders

SEOUL -- South Korean shipbuilders led by Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., which have been struggling with a drought of demand amid the pandemic, scooped up major deals in the first quarter of the year, boding well for their achievements of this year's annual order targets.

Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering Co. (KSOE) bagged US$5.4 billion worth of new orders in the January-March period, achieving 36 percent of its annual order target of $14.9 billion. KSOE has three shipbuilding subsidiaries -- Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co. and Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries Co. -- under its wing.
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