The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index fell 5.5 points, or 0.23 percent, to close at 2,357.69.
Trade volume was a moderate 277 million shares worth 4.67 trillion won ($4.16 billion), with gainers slightly outnumbering losers 405 to 401.
The local stock market opened higher as market sentiment was boosted by overnight gains on Wall Street but pared earlier gains as institutional investors offloaded more shares than they bought.
"Investors are hungry for market-moving forces, but at the moment, they are hard pressed to find them," said Kim Sung-hwan, an analyst at Bookook Securities. "For the time being, the local stock market may be stuck in a tight range."
Foreign investors bought a net 76 billion won, sapping a five-day selling streak, while institutions sold 218 billion won worth of shares.
Market heavyweights traded mixed, with top cap Samsung Electronics rising 0.35 percent to end at 2,324,000 won.
SK hynix, a major chipmaker, advanced 0.15 percent to 68,700 won.
Automakers rebounded from their recent drops.
Shares of Hyundai Motor, South Korea's No. 1 automaker, gained 1.78 percent to end at 143,000 won, and its smaller affiliate Kia Motors advanced 0.28 percent to 35,550 won.
Hyundai Mobis, the country's largest auto-parts maker, jumped 2.12 percent to finish at 241,000 won.
Local automakers have been on a slide on concerns over a protracted slump in China. Kia Motors was ordered by a local court to retroactively pay some 400 billion won to employees.
Naver, the operator of the country's top Internet portal, shed 1.19 percent to end at 746,000 won.
The local currency closed at 1,122.80 won against the US dollar, up 5 won from the previous session's close.
Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, ended mixed. The yield on three-year Treasurys remained flat at 1.747 percent and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds fell 0.2 basis point to 1.966 percent. (Yonhap)