Yonhap News Summary

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

(LEAD) Moon calls for enhanced containment measures to cope with spread of omicron variant

CAIRO — President Moon Jae-in on Thursday instructed the government to employ all possible anti-epidemic measures against the spread of the omicron variant, saying the highly transmissible variant has become a dominant strain in South Korea.

“It’s a fait accompli that the omicron has become a dominant strain,” Moon said, according to presidential spokesperson Park Kyung-mee.

Lee repeats call for prudence on military service exemption for BTS

SEOUL — Ruling party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung again voiced skepticism Thursday over whether to grant special favors to K-pop superstar BTS for its mandatory military service.

Lee of the liberal Democratic Party was asked at a campaign event about his views on the long-running issue of whether the septet should be exempted from military service or given other favors for their role in promoting the nation’s image overseas.

S. Korea detects signs of N.K. military parade preparations ahead of key political events

SEOUL — South Korea’s military has detected signs of North Korea preparing for a military parade ahead of the reclusive regime’s key political events, a Seoul official said Thursday.

The North is set to celebrate the birthdays of leader Kim Jong-un’s late father and grandfather, Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung, on Feb. 16 and April 15, respectively.

(LEAD) Seoul stocks rebound on bargain hunting, China’s rate cut

SEOUL — South Korean stocks rebounded Thursday on investors’ move to buy oversold stocks after the recent stock plunge and China’s interest rate cut. The Korean won fell against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 20.4 points, or 0.72 percent, to close at 2,862.68 points.

S. Korea, Iran discuss possible use of Tehran’s frozen funds for U.N. membership fee: sources

SEOUL — South Korea is in consultations with Iran over the proposed use of Tehran’s funds, frozen under the reimposed U.S. sanctions, to help it pay dues to the United Nations and regain its voting rights, government sources said Thursday.

Last week, the U.N. notified Iran that it would immediately lose its voting rights for the arrears, reportedly worth US$18.4 million, along with seven other U.N. member states, under the U.N. Charter.

Number of N. Korean defectors plunges in 2021 amid pandemic

SEOUL — The number of North Koreans who defected to South Korea dropped to double digits last year apparently due to the North’s strict border restrictions against the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an official here Thursday.

A total of 63 North Koreans — 40 men and 23 women — settled in the South during the year, compared with 229 in 2020 and 1,047 in 2019, the unification ministry official told reporters on background.

(LEAD) N. Korea announces amnesty for convicted people to mark late leaders’ birthdays

SEOUL — North Korea has decided to grant convicted people amnesty, effective later this month, on the occasion of major birthday celebrations of its late leaders, according to its state media Thursday.

The pardons will be granted to those who were convicted of “crimes against the country and people” to commemorate the 110th birthday of Kim Il-sung and the 80th birthday of Kim Jong-il in a decision made by the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the Korean Central News Agency reported.