South Korea's Crude Oil Imports from Iran

South Korea is the world’s fifth-largest crude oil importer and sixth-largest oil refining country. In June 2012, South Korea suspended all oil imports from Iran in response to a European Union insurance ban on tankers carrying Iranian crude oil.[1] South Korea subsequently obtained a waiver and resumed importing Iranian crude oil. However, the average annual volume of crude oil purchased by South Korea from Iran during the period 2012-2015 was 40% lower than in 2011. During the sanctions years, other Middle Eastern suppliers and Russia substituted for South Korea’s lost imports from Iran.[2]

From January to June 2016, South Korea’s imports of Iranian crude skyrocketed, due to the lifting of sanctions and the country’s strong demand for cheap Iranian condensate.[3]


[1] Charles Kennedy, “South Korea Become First Major Asian Customer to Halt Iranian Imports,”, June 26, 2012, accessed August 8, 2016,

[2] U.S. Energy Information Administration (E.I.A.), “South Korea,” last updated October 5, 2015, accessed August 8, 2016,

[3] Hyun Joo Jin and Florence Tan, “South Korea’s condensate imports from Iran to soar in June,” Reuters, June 9, 2016, accessed August 8, 2016,; and Heesu Lee, “Top Oil Market Embraces Iran Once Again as Asia Imports Jump,” Bloomberg News, July 28, 2016, accessed August 8, 2016,