SEOUL, April 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korean financial markets were rattled Thursday by escalating geopolitical risks stemming from a torrent of threats from North Korea, with the key stock index tumbling 1.2 percent and the local currency sinking against the U.S. dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) plunged 23.77 points to 1,959.45, the biggest daily fall this year. Trading volume was moderate at 407 million shares worth 4.6 trillion won (US$4.1 billion), with decliners far outnumbering gainers 614 to 225.
"North Korea risks, coupled with a strengthening dollar and downbeat economic data, pounded investor sentiment," said Lee Kyung-soo, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities Co.
Concerns over Pyongyang's threats have been heightening as the communist country recently moved an intermediate-range missile to its east coast in a display of military power.
The North has also notified through the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee that workers will only be permitted to leave but not enter the border town.
Large caps lost ground across the board, with market bellwether Samsung Electronics falling 0.99 percent to 1,506,000 won ahead of its earnings guidance release on Friday.
Automakers ended in negative territory due to a major vehicle recall. South Korea's top automaker Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motors will recall more than 2 million cars in South Korea and the United States for problems in brake light switches and airbags.
Hyundai Motor slumped 5.05 percent to 207,000 won and Kia Motors lost 3.27 percent to 53,300 won. Their parts-making affiliate Hyundai Mobis also fell 3.05 percent to 301,500 won.
In contrast, Lotte Confectionery surged 5.56 percent to 1,935,000 won after announcing its takeover of food maker Kirin.
Cheil Worldwide, the advertising arm of Samsung Group, also jumped 5.27 percent to 24,950 won.
The local currency ended at 1,123.8 won against the greenback, down 6.3 won from Wednesday's close, amid escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula, dealers said.
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