Seoul stocks trimmed earlier losses late Thursday morning amid rising concerns over the spread of Wuhan coronavirus.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index had fallen 11.24 points, or 0.50 percent, to 2,256.01 as of 11:15 a.m.
Foreign and institutional investors sold a combined 246.7 billion won ($211.4 million) worth of stocks, weighing down the bourse.
Daishin Securities analyst Lee Kyung-min said investors went for profit-taking ahead of the holiday after the index jumped to its highest level in 15 months on Wednesday.
The Lunar New Year's holiday is one of the two major traditional Korean holidays and falls on Saturday, forming part of a four-day break that runs Friday through Monday.
Investors fretted over the potential fallout from the outbreak of a new coronavirus that has been spreading in China and other countries.
In Seoul, large-cap stocks were mixed.
Market cap Samsung Electronics was down 1.44 percent, and South Korea's No. 2 chipmaker, SK hynix Inc., fell 1.19 percent.
Among gainers, top carmaker Hyundai Motor Co. was up 2.36 percent, and Samsung BioLogics, a biopharmaceutical unit of South Korea's top conglomerate, Samsung Group, rose 7.19 percent.
The local currency was trading at 1,166.55 won against the US dollar, down 1.95 won from the previous session's close. (Yonhap)