* Auto sector rises on firm yen
* Hyundai Elevator rapidly rises on North Korea news
SEOUL, Aug 8 (Reuters) - South Korean shares rebounded on Thursday morning, helped by improved Chinese exports data, gains in regional markets and a strong yen.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 0.7 percent at 1,891.18 points as of 0315 GMT, with better-than-expected China July exports providing an additional boost around lunchtime. The index fell 1.5 percent on Wednesday.
Most regional markets were also trading higher, with the China data bolstering sentiment.
China’s exports in July rose 5.1 percent from a year earlier, above expectations, while imports jumped 10.9 percent, leaving the country with a trade surplus of $17.8 billion for the month.
China is South Korea’s biggest export market.
“Today’s gains represent a rebound from yesterday’s sharper-than-anticipated decline,” said Mirae Asset Securities analyst Chung Seung-jae. He expects the market to trade around the 1900 mark for the time being in the absence of major catalysts.
Seven of the top ten companies by market capitalisation advanced. Auto maker Hyundai Motor Co gained 0.9 percent, rebounding from Wednesday’s decline on the stronger yen . Its affiliates Kia Motors Corp and auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis Co Ltd each gained 1.0 percent.
A stronger yen gives South Korean exporters a competitive edge against their Japanese rivals in overseas markets.
Shares in Hyundai Elevator Co Ltd jumped 13.7 percent and Hyundai Merchant Marine Co Ltd increased 14.8 percent as North Korea said it will reopen the shuttered Kaesong industrial zone on Wednesday.
Both Hyundai companies are part of the Hyundai Group, a South Korean conglomerate that used to operate a resort in North Korea until all tours were suspended after a death of a South Korean tourist in 2008.
Foreign investors sold a net 65.1 billion won ($58.20 million) worth of KOSPI shares by late morning.
Gainers outnumbered decliners 448 to 313.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks rose 0.7 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ edged 0.4 percent higher. ($1 = 1116.9000 Korean won) (Reporting by Jungmin Jang; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)