* Hyundai Motor up 4.5 pct as yen strengthens
* Samsung Elec gains more than 2 pct after steep decline
* Defensive plays lose ground; banking, utilities down
SEOUL, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Seoul shares gained early on Tuesday on bargain-hunting after recent declines, with auto and tech sectors gaining strongly after the won and yen currencies reversed recent trends.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 0.8 percent to 1,955.82 points by 0228 GMT, after closing at nearly a two-month low on Monday.
“The main board rebounded as pricing became attractive after steep declines, with investors snapping up exporters as the yen briefly strengthened and the won eased against the dollar,” said Kang Hyun-gie, an analyst at IM Investment & Securities.
South Korean shares had fallen 4.5 percent year-to-date as of the previous session, underperforming a 1.7 percent gain in their Asian peers.
Exporters, which lead the KOSPI in market capitalisation, saw their shares fall due to the weakening yen and strengthening won, as it had given a price advantage to Japanese rivals.
The yen took a breather from selling, briefly strengthening against the dollar on Tuesday after touching its lowest level to the dollar since June 2010 on Monday.
Meanwhile, the South Korean won plunged to its lowest in 13 weeks against the dollar on Monday and marked its biggest one-day decline since September 2011, although it rose against the dollar early on Tuesday.
Tech heavyweight Samsung Electronics rose 2.4 percent near mid-session, snapping losses after a 4-session decline wiped 15.9 trillion won ($14.54 billion) from its market capitalisation as of Monday.
Automakers were one of the largest gainers, with Hyundai Motor Co up 4.5 percent while sibling Kia Motors Corp rose 6 percent.
“Hyundai Motor had previously fallen more than 10 percent in a month as the won steadily strengthened. Shares could see further gains if the exchange rate shows further signs of stabilising,” said Suh Sung-moon, an analyst at Korea Investment & Securities.
Defensive plays such as banking and food and beverage makers lost ground, with Hana Financial Group down 2.6 percent while CJ Cheiljedang fell 3.2 percent.
Local institutional investors purchased a net 124.7 billion won ($114.06 million) worth of KOSPI shares near mid-session, lifting the index.
Advancing shares outnumbered decliners 405 to 347. The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was up 1 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ edged 0.3 percent higher.
$1 = 1093.2500 Korean won Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong