Meanwhile, the Kospi slid into negative territory, with the index sliding 0.8 percent to finish the session at 2,466.46 after trading higher at the open. Technology names closed mostly lower, with Samsung Electronics losing 1.05 percent and chipmaker SK Hynix giving up early gains to close down 0.77 percent.
Automakers saw declines, with Hyundai Motor falling 2.66 percent and affiliate Kia Motors losing 3.22 percent by the end of the session.
Shipbuilders, which had rallied in the new year due to optimism in the outlook for the sector, were mixed. Hyundai Heavy Industries closed 6.41 percent higher and Daewoo Shipbuilding was off by 4.07 percent.
In Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 edged up by 0.11 percent to close at 6,077.1, with the energy sub-index the top-performer of the day as oil prices touched their highest levels in two and a half years. Oil and gas producers mostly notched gains, with Oil Search rising 3.6 percent and Woodside climbing 2.68 percent by the end of the day.
Greater China markets extended gains. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.58 percent by 3:05 p.m. HK/SIN, with investors eyeing an eighth straight day of gains. Energy-related plays were higher following oil's overnight gains, with the tech sector also recording sizable gains: CNOOC was up 3.61 percent and Tencent advanced 2.13 percent at 3:10 p.m. HK/SIN.
On the mainland, markets saw moderate gains. The Shanghai Composite added 0.52 percent to end at 3,386.5 and the Shenzhen Composite advanced 0.36 percent to close at 1,940.96. The energy sector outperformed its peers on the blue-chip CSI 300 index, which tracks large companies listed in both Shanghai and Shenzhen.
A survey released Thursday showed the services sector in the country grew at its fastest rate in more than three months in December. The Caixin services PMI came in at 53.9 last month, compared to the 51.9 seen in November. That was the highest level recorded since August 2014, according to Reuters.
The positive read followed the release of expectation-topping Caixin manufacturing PMI data earlier this week. Official PMI for December had been in line with estimates.