[SEOUL] South Korean shares and the won declined sharply early on Monday as demand for safe-haven assets rose ahead of some global events, including the Brexit referendum scheduled for June 23.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (Kospi) was down 1.5 per cent at 1,986.64 as of 0223 GMT, the lowest in more than a week.
The won was quoted at 1,172.6 to the US dollar, down 0.6 per cent from its previous close of 1,165.5.
"Stocks in the US and EU all plummeted last week on worries about the Brexit issue and these are affecting South Korean stocks today," said Kim Ye Eun, a stock analyst at LIG Investment & Securities.
British support for leaving the European Union stood marginally ahead of those who want to remain part of the bloc according to a poll.
Ms Kim said central bank meetings scheduled for this week in the United States, Japan, the UK and Switzerland have also been adding to market jitters, pressuring local equities.
Foreign investors were poised to be sellers for the day, offloading a net 101.2 billion won (S$117.44 million) worth of Kospi shares near mid-session, which weighed on the index.
The Kospi was set to mark the biggest daily percentage loss in four months.
Decliners far outnumbered the gainers 682 to 154.
Shares of South Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate, Lotte Group, were sharply lower amid growing uncertainties stemming from an ongoing prosecutors' investigation.
Shares of Hotel Shilla Co Ltd rose as much as 4.3 per cent early in the session on expectations that the stock would benefit from rival Lotte's current woes. It was trading up 2.3 per cent near midday.
June futures on three-year treasury bonds gained 0.04 point to 110.71.