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[Serendipity] I love you. That is why I am staying away, for now

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[Serendipity] I love you. That is why I am staying away, for now
I have been working from home for most of the last two weeks after the government implemented the Level 2.5 social distancing scheme. During the period, I have stepped outside the house on three occasions -- once to a department store and once to a bookstore to get Christmas presents that could not be bought online and then once more to buy wrapping paper.
Each outing was a brief affair, dashing in and out of the store after getting what I needed. No lingering and browsing. So, I may not be entirely accurate in saying that the world appears cheerless this Christmas season.

Lonely Christmas in Santa's homeland as tourists stay away

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Lonely Christmas in Santa's homeland as tourists stay away
A bubble-themed room is pictured at the Arctic Snow Hotel, built entirely out of snow and ice on Dec. 17 in Rovaniemi. (AFP-Yonhap)
ROVANIEMI, Finland (AFP) -- In Finland’s snowy far north, international visitors normally flood the Santa Claus Village amusement park, in search of reindeer rides, snow castles and a meeting with the jolly man himself.
Under the pandemic travel restrictions, however, crowds in the Lapland town of Rovaniemi have dwindled to just a trickle and the joyful winter wonderland feels ghostly and abandoned.
“It’s been an exceptional and difficult year,” Santa tells AFP from behind a plexiglass screen installed in his grotto, adding that his visitors have appreciated being able to forget a tough year and enjoy the Christmas cheer.

N. Korea estimated to have up to 60 nuclear warheads: US think tank

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North Korea is believed to have up to 60 nuclear warheads that can threaten regional stability, according to a recent estimate by a research institute affiliated with the US National Defense University. The Institute for National Strategic Studies said in its Strategic Assessment 2020 report that the North is assumed to have between 15 and 60 nuclear warheads and approximately 650 ballistic missiles capable of threa...

Proud second baseman has no regrets about retiring after 16 years in KBO

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To hear Jeong Keun-woo tell it, his 16-year career in South Korean baseball has exceeded even his own expectations -- the way he performed, how much love his fans showed him and all the honors that he won. Now at 38, Jeong, considered one of the greatest second basemen in Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) history, has no second thoughts over hanging up his cleats. "It feels like yesterday I was crying tears of...

Trump aide says US not easing sanctions on N. Korea

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WASHINGTON -- The United States will not ease sanctions on North Korea short of the regime's complete and verifiable denuclearization, a senior aide to US President Donald Trump said Tuesday, following reports that China and Russia proposed the United Nations lift some sanctions on the North.Kellyanne Conway, senior counselor to Trump, did not comment directly on the draft UN resolution proposed by China and Russia o...

Biegun to visit China to discuss N. Korea

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WASHINGTON -- US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun will visit Beijing later this week to discuss the need to maintain international unity on North Korea, the State Department said Tuesday.Biegun will be in the Chinese capital on Thursday and Friday following visits to Seoul and Tokyo, the department said in a brief statement.He will "meet with (Chinese) officials to discuss the need to mainta...

S. Korean pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun signs with St. Louis Cardinals

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S. Korean pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun signs with St. Louis Cardinals
South Korean left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun has signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, fulfilling his dream of pitching in the majors in his second crack.
The Cardinals announced on Tuesday (local time) their signing of the 31-year-old pitcher and introduced him right away at a press conference at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The deal is reportedly worth $8 million for two years.
In 2019, his 12th season with the SK Wyverns in the Korea Baseball Organization, Kim went 17-6 with a 2.51 ERA and 180 strikeouts in 190 1/3 innings. He was tied for second in the league in wins, second in strikeouts and third in ERA.

US Senate passes defense bill with provision against troop drawdown in S. Korea

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WASHINGTON -- The United States Senate on Tuesday passed a defense bill containing a provision restricting the drawdown of American troops in South Korea.The Senate voted 86-8 in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which authorizes $738 billion in funding for the Department of Defense.The bill will be sent to US President Donald Trump to be signed into law, which Trump said last week...

North Korea may not fire long-range missile until year-end: think tank

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North Korea is unlikely to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles at least until the end of the year in order not to embarrass China, experts said Wednesday, amid concerns the regime could express frustration at the stalled denuclearization talks with the US through a major military provocation. “Chances are high that North Korea won’t test-fire missiles before and after a China-Japan-South Korea tril...

2020 to be big year for South Korean IPOs

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With a healthy pipeline of companies seeking initial public offerings next year, industry watchers say the proceeds raised could exceed 10 trillion won ($.8.9 billion) for the first time since 2010. According to corporate announcements made so far, the first major IPO of 2020 is expected to be South Korean drug development firm SK Biopharmaceuticals. The drug unit of South Korea’s telecom-to-energy conglomerate...

Chips, cars, biomedicines to lead 3% export growth next year: KOTRA

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South Korea’s exports are forecast to rise by 3 percent in 2020 to exceed $550 billion, led by key industries including chips, automobiles and biomedicines, according to a state-run trade agency on Wednesday. This year’s exports are expected to total $540 billion, down 10.7 percent from last year, the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency said. This is a bit lower than the Korea International Trade Asso...

[Herald Interview] Photographer dedicates sunset years to int'l competitions

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In his sunset years, a civil engineer-turned-photographer has been making his name at international photography competitions. Over the past five years, professional photographer Ryu Shin-woo, 76, has won 2,420 acceptances for 352 works in 466 competitions across 73 countries,  sponsored by the Federation Internationale de l’Art Photographique, also known as the International Federation of Photographic...

Jeju Air to acquire budget airline Eastar Jet at W69.5b

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Jeju Air, the country’s largest low-cost carrier by sales, said Wednesday that it had signed a deal to acquire 51 percent stakes in Eastar Holdings, the largest shareholder of a budget carrier Eastar Jet, in an apparent move to broaden its market share by absorbing an ailing air carrier.  Earlier this year, cosmetics-to-airline conglomerate Aekyung Group, which owns a 56.9 percent stake in Jeju Air, failed...

Moon to hold bilateral summit with Abe in China next week

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in will hold his first one-one-one summit talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 15 months next week, when they visit China for an annual group meeting involving a Chinese leader, a Cheong Wa Dae official said Wednesday.The summit plan raises expectations for a possible breakthrough in efforts to end a monthslong trade fight between the two sides.The trade spat is attributabl...

Seoul likely to send troops to Strait of Hormuz

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The South Korean government is likely to send military forces to join a US-led multinational coalition to defend the Strait of Hormuz early next year.According to military sources, the 4,400-ton destroyer Wang Geon of the Cheonghae anti-piracy unit is scheduled to leave Busan late this month to relieve the destroyer Kang Gam-chan which is currently operating in the Gulf of Aden.The Wang Geon is expected to arrive in ...

Seoul mayor calls for three-fold increase in real estate taxes

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Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said Wednesday that real estate taxes should be raised three-fold, as housing prices soar despite governmental efforts to discourage real estate speculation. “The ratio of comprehensive real estate taxes in Korea stands at only 0.16 percent, which is a third of the average of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,” he said on an MBC radio program. “It is...

Togolese President, IYF founder discuss 'mind' education

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Togo’s President Faure Essozimna Gnassingb met with Park Ock-soo, the founder of Good News Mission and non-government organization International Youth Fellowship to discuss promoting character education in Togo, the IYF said Wednesday. Park, who is the head pastor of the Good News Gangnam Church, met with Gnassingb at the Togolese President’s palace on Monday at the president’s official invitat...

[Newsmaker] Prosecutors, police at odds over possible decades-old wrongful conviction

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Police and prosecutors have issued conflicting views on a controversial forensics report that was used as key evidence in convicting a 53-year-old man surnamed Yun of the eighth of the notorious Hwaseong serial killings.Police on Wednesday disputed prosecutors’ suggestion that the 1989 forensic report that led to the suspected wrongful conviction had been a “fabrication,” saying the tested samp...

S. Korea's risk premium hits more than ten-year low on US-China trade deal, British election

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South Korea's credit default risk has plunged to a more than ten-year low on a much-awaited trade deal between the US and China and the outcome of the British election, which effectively green lights the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union, the finance ministry said Wednesday. The credit default swap premium for South Korean foreign exchange stabilization bonds with a five-year maturity came to 22.2 basis p...

Korea's R&D spending 5th largest among OECD members in 2018: ministry

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South Korea's research and development spending was the fifth largest among OECD nations in 2018, the country's science ministry said Wednesday. South Korea spent 85.7 trillion won ($73.3 billion) on R&D activities last year, up 8.8 percent from a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Science and ICT. In terms of the proportion of R&D spending to gross domestic product, South Korea was the leading nation...

Korean investment in European office market jumps 152%

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South Korean investments in the European office market increased 152 percent as of November on-year, buoyed by a currency-swap premium, but is projected to decline and diversify next year, commercial real estate services company Cushman & Wakefield said Wednesday. “Around 18 trillion won ($16.5 billion) was invested in the overseas office building market so far this year and European properties accounted fo...

Samsung apologizes for union busting

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Samsung Electronics and its de facto holding company Samsung C&T on Wednesday released a statement that included a public apology for the conglomerate’s efforts to disrupt the formation of trade unions at some of its affiliates. The apology was made one day after a Seoul court handed down jail terms to key executives of the electronics unit, including Lee Sang-hoon, Samsung Electronics’ chairman of bo...

S. Korea formally launches 'open banking' service

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South Korea formally launched an open banking service Wednesday to increase convenience and lower transaction costs for bank customers. The new system enables bank customers to access nearly all banking services offered by any bank through a single smartphone application, including withdrawals and transfers, according to the Financial Services Commission.Previously, 10 commercial banks, including KB Kookmin Bank, Shi...

[News Focus] Korean economy in dire straits as policies flounder

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SEJONG -- As the 2010s is due to expire in two weeks, South Korea continues to face heightened economic uncertainties.The year 2000 was a new starting point for the fourth-largest economy in Asia. After overcoming the 1997-98 financial crisis, Korea posted 8.9 percent economic growth in the last year of the 20th century.The nation’s gross domestic product growth was robust in the early 2000s...

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