[SEOUL] South Korean shares fell more than one per cent on Friday as equity markets extended their slide on worries over the health of the global economy.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 1.4 per cent at 1,836.09 points as of 0228 GMT. Decliners outnumbered advancers 75 to 10.
"Risk-averse investors are now seeking resilient stocks as credit risk concerns battered banking shares in Europe," said Kim Sung-hwan, a stock analyst at Bookook Securities.
Mr Kim said the KOSPI was not likely to find a bottom until it fell to around 1,800 points.
The sub-index for medical supplies led decliners across the main bourse, plunging 8.7 per cent.
But auto shares jumped on hopes that the stronger yen would take some competitive pressure off the sector and relieve pressure on profit margins.
Hyundai Motor Co gained 4.6 per cent, while its affiliate Kia Motors Corp rose 6.2 per cent.
Daewoo International Corp shares jumped 12.8 per cent after it discovered more gas in its Myanmar field.
Shares of several leading companies in the Kaesong industrial zone plunged, with Romanson Co Ltd falling 8.8 per cent.
South Korea has cut power and water to the zone it jointly runs with North Korea, hours after the North kicked out the South's workers and froze the assets of companies operating there as tensions rise after the North's rocket launch on Sunday.
Defence shares, on the other hand, performed strongly, with Victek Co Ltd and Speco advancing 23.7 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively.
Foreign investors weighed on the index, having sold a net 98.2 billion won (S$113.72 million) worth of KOSPI shares on the main bourse by mid-morning.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was down 0.6 per cent, while the junior KOSDAQ fell six per cent lower.
The South Korean won edged lower, as foreign investors sold local equities and bonds, while importer bought the dollar on dips.
The won was quoted at 1,206.8 per dollar, down 0.4 per cent compared with Thursday's close of 1,202.5.
March futures on three-year treasury bonds shed 0.06 points at 110.31.