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Seoul: Won, stocks edge down as Park faces deepening crisis

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[SEOUL] The South Korean won and shares weakened early on Monday due to investors' nervousness over a political crisis engulfing President Park Geun Hye's government, with several top aides quitting their posts over the weekend.

The won was quoted at 1,145.9 as of 0227 GMT, down 0.1 per cent compared to the previous close of 1,144.9. It touched as low as 1,148.9.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (Kospi) was down 0.4 per cent at 2,011.16 points.

An opinion poll showed support for Ms Park tumbled to an all-time low last week after her friend, Choi Soon-Sil, was found to have had access to draft speeches before delivering them. Ms Choi will appear before prosecutors on Monday afternoon to answer allegations that she exerted improper ifluence over state affairs.

In the midst of the political crisis, Ms Park has accepted the resignations of five of the top presidential aides, including the chief of staff, the presidential office said on Sunday.

Three long-time Park aides, the insular core of advisers who have been criticised of tightly controlling the access to the president, had also stepped down, according to the presidential office.

Ms Park's office said on Friday she ordered her senior secretaries to tender their resignation.

Ha Keon-Hyeong, an analyst at Shinhan Investment Corp said the many uncertainties due to several political issues in and outside of the country was increasing volatility.

Foremost among the external uncertainties was the increasingly unpredictable US presidential election, with opinion poll showing Republican candidate Donald Trump catching up on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, whose run for the White House has been hit by the FBI re-examining her use of a private email server.

Offshore investors were poised to be net buyers, purchasing 20.7 billion Korean won (S$25.17 million) worth of Kospi shares near mid-session.

Shares of Hanjin Shipping Co Ltd gained as much as 30 per cent as the government said it plans to create state-backed ship financing company with an initial capital of 1 trillion won.

Chipmaker SK Hynix Inc was down more than 2 per cent.

Decliners outnumbered advancers 669 to 154.

December futures on three-year treasury bonds gained 0.02 point to 110.27.