SEOUL, Dec. 22 (Yonhap) — South Korean stocks opened lower Tuesday as investors are wary of COVID-19 that is spreading at home and abroad.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) fell 8.24 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,770.41 in the first 15 minutes of trading.

Stocks got off to a weak start after the benchmark index closed at an all-time high the previous session.

Global recovery hopes weakened over the new strain of the coronavirus in Britain, reportedly up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original COVID-19 illness.

In Seoul, market bellwether Samsung Electronics declined 0.41 percent, and No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix shed 1.29 percent.

Hyundai Motor, the country’s largest carmaker, lost 0.8 percent.

Leading chemical firm LG Chem dropped 0.74 percent, and rechargeable battery maker Samsung SDI moved down 0.35 percent.

Pharmaceutical giant Samsung Biologics retreated 0.49 percent, but Celltrion rose 0.27 percent.

Internet portal giant Naver gained 2.46 percent, with its rival Kakao adding 2.11 percent.

The local currency was trading at 1,103.95 won against the U.S. dollar, down 1.25 won from the previous session’s close.