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Yonhap selects top 10 domestic news stories of 2010
SEOUL, Dec. 20 (Yonhap) -- Following is the Yonhap News Agency-selected 10 biggest domestic news stories that made headlines in South Korea during this year.

  
-- North Korean provocations
A South Korean Navy patrol vessel, the Cheonan, sank in waters southwest of the front-line island of Baengnyeong on March 26, killing 46 of its 104 sailors. A joint military and civil investigation team concluded that a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo at the 1,200-ton ship. Pyongyang denied any involvement. The already heightened inter-Korean tensions further escalated when North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island, just below the de-facto western sea border, on Nov. 23, killing two civilians and two marines. The North fired about 170 shells, and about 80 of them fell on Yeonpyeong. It blamed a South Korean regular drill then underway in the region.

  
-- North Korea confirms leader's son as successor
North Korea officially confirmed that leader Kim Jong-il's third and youngest son, Kim Jong-un, will succeed his father. The junior Kim, known to be 26 or 27 years old, was appointed a four-star general on Sept. 27, and the following day in a Workers' Party representatives' meeting that was called for the first time in 30 years, was named vice chairman of the party's Central Military Commission, which governs the country's military. His appointment cemented a third-generation power transfer unprecedented in modern history, in which his father took over from his grandfather and the nation's founder, Kim Il-sung, after his death in 1994.

  
-- Prime minister steps down over administrative capital row
Seeking to scrap the previous administration's project to relocate administrative offices out of Seoul to a geographically central town, the Lee Myung-bak government proposed a revised plan. The Sejong City was envisioned as an economic hub instead of an administrative capital, and the Lee government promised massive investment for its new idea. Prime Minister Chung Un-chan spearheaded the revised proposal, but it was voted down in the National Assembly with opposition parties and even a faction within the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) backing the original plan to boost provincial development. Chung stepped down in July taking responsibility for the failure to get the revision passed.

  
-- Local elections shift power in provinces
The June 2 local elections, seen as President Lee Myung-bak's mid-term test, dealt a crushing defeat to his ruling Grand National Party (GNP). The main opposition Democratic Party was the biggest winner of the polls, securing 10 mayoral and gubernatorial seats, compared to six such posts that went to the GNP.

  
-- Smartphone trend
The domestic market demand for smartphones surged in 2010, with 7 million smartphones sold this year, compared to 800,000 in 2009. Samsung unveiled its flagship smartphone Galaxy S in Seoul in June, following the Apple iPhone launched in late 2009. In November, both the Apple iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab were launched in the local market, opening the new era of table PCs.

  
-- G-20 summit in Seoul
The economic summit of the Group of 20 nations was held in Seoul on Nov. 11-12. Leaders of the participating nations coped with a wide range of issues from foreign exchange, the current account imbalances, ways of building a global financial safety net, trade barriers, financial reform and anti-corruption efforts.

  
-- South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement
South Korea and the U.S. reached a final agreement focusing on U.S. demands that South Korea soften its automotive safety and environmental standards in December. The South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, also known as the KORUS FTA, was originally signed in 2007, but the legislative ratification of the deal has stalled in both countries on calls from Washington that lopsided auto trade and beef issue be resolved.

   Under the revised terms, the two countries agreed to scale back tariff cuts for cars. South Korea is also allowed to phase out tariffs on American pork imports by 2015.

  
-- Figure queen Kim Yu-na wins gold at Olympics
Figure skating star Kim Yu-na took the gold medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in February with a world record. The 20-year-old was the first Korean to win an Olympic medal in figure skating and the first female skater in the world to achieve a "grand slam," winning the World Grand Prix Final, Four Continents Championships, World Championships and the Winter Olympics.

  
-- North Korea unveils uranium enrichment facility
North Korea revealed through a U.S. nuclear scientist, Siegfried Hecker, in November that it has a facility to enrich uranium in the country's main nuclear complex in Yongbyon. The North said it has 2,000 centrifuges that can be used to produce highly enriched uranium, which Hecker says would be enough to make one or two nuclear weapons a year. North Korea already has a plutonium-based program, with which it conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

  
-- KOSPI revives to 2000-level
South Korea's key stock index in December regained its 2,000-point milestone level for the first time since late 2007. Repercussions from the U.S. financial meltdown in 2008 once sent the benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) down to 938.75. But the latest uptrend suggests the local stock market is not likely to be easily swayed by external uncertainties such as North Korean provocations, the European financial crisis and China's move to refrain from hiking interest rates.

  (END)