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Roh faces corruption charges

The former president is linked to $6 million in transfers to family members. Pyongyang tries two captured American journalists, who could face 10 years in prison. Seoul’s central bank forecasts contraction. President Lee vows to make the country a top-tier bike manufacturer. And the South’s snipers protect a North Korean freighter from Somali pirates.

Top News: Former president Roh Moo-hyun faced questioning by prosecutors on his alleged connection to a massive bribery scandal that has dominated the national news. Roh is suspected of having direct ties to the transfer of $6 million to his wife and his brother’s son-in-law from a businessman known to be his close supporter.


The media broadcasted live Roh’s journey from his home village in the southeastern region of the country to his arrival at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul. The prosecution is expected to announce whether they will indict the president at the end of this week.


South Korea confirmed its first swine flu case and is waiting for results on another probable case. A 51-year-old nun, who had recently visited Mexico for volunteer work, was identified as the first carrier of the influenza, according to the Health Ministry. The woman is said to have almost fully recovered from the swine flu.


Officials are waiting for results on another probable case of a female who had come in direct contact with the nun.


North Korea announced that the two American journalists detained by the Stalinist state for more than a month while will stand trial. The journalists, who were working for San Francisco-based Current TV, were arrested while filming the plight of defectors.


Pyongyang did not make public what the two women will be charged for, but had previously said they would be indicted for trespassing and hostile acts. Experts say if found guilty they could face a sentence of up to ten years. The move came shortly before the United Nations announced a list of North Korean companies it would impose sanctions on.


Money: South Korea will likely see a contraction in its economy for the first time in more than a decade, according to the Bank of Korea. The country displayed a surprising 0.1 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter prompted by interest rate-cuts and increased public spending.


However, the central bank said it was expecting to see a 2.4 percent contraction this year, due to the slacking export market which would make it the first decline since 1998.


Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest LCD and computer memory chip maker, posted stronger results than expected for the first quarter with a boost from its mobile phone sales. Other divisions were hit heavily by weak demand. The electronics giant reported a 72 percent decrease in quarterly profit, which beat market forecasts, but the company is still cautious about its prospects on recovery in the near future.


South Korea’s leading automaker Hyundai said its net profit dropped by 43 percent in the first quarter, due to sluggish car sales across the world.


The smaller-than-anticipated decline was much attributed to the dwindling won. Hyundai increased its global market share to 4.7 from four percent the previous year. The company raised its growth target in China by 11 percent after seeing an increase in sales in the country.


Elsewhere: Wholesale pork prices have dropped by 25 percent due to rising concern about a breakout of swine flu in the country. Retail prices have not been hit so far. However, industry officials say sales of pork has dropped since the eruption of the new influenza, and that it could pull down the prices in the near future.


President Lee Myung-bak vowed to propel South Korea to third place in the world’s bicycle manufacturing industry in the next five year. After participating in the country’s first bicycle festival, Lee said, just as South Korea succeeded in the automobile industry as a late-comer, it can also enter the top-tier in bicycle manufacturing.


The government proposed to invest 10 billion won to promote the development of the industry. Only 17 percent of the population owns a bicycle in South Korea compared to 68 percent in Japan.


South Korean forces warded off Somali pirates threatening a North Korean freighter after receiving distress calls from the vessel sailing near Yemeni waters. Snipers on board a helicopter dispatched from a South Korean warship shot warning signals at the pirates who retreated from the North’s vessel said to have been carrying iron ore.


The helicopter guided the North Korean vessel to a safe area and received a “thank you” message from the ship.