On March 19, 2019, South Korea imported Iranian crude oil worth $476 million in February, more than four times as much as January ($101 million), although not as much as the same period last year ($621 million).
In February, South Korea imported more Iranian crude oil than before the July 2018 (US$474 million) sanctions, close to the average import level of US$539 million from January to July last year. From September to December last year, South Korea failed to import Iranian crude oil because of U.S. sanctions. The failure to import a penny of Iranian crude oil was also the first time since August to September 2012.
In November 2018, the United States temporarily granted Iranian crude oil import ban exemption to eight countries and regions around the world. In January, South Korea resumed importing Iranian crude oil, but only a fifth of the monthly average before sanctions. Government officials said that imports resumed in January and many negotiation steps were at the end, so crude oil imports increased significantly in February. Although import quotas have returned to pre-sanctions levels, the United States continues to oppress Iran and crude oil imports will fluctuate.
According to Reuters, the United States is asking South Korea and Japan to reduce Iranian crude oil imports and make adjustments every 180 days. Seventy percent of South Korea’s crude imports from Iran are condensate. Due to the low price of Iranian crude oil, 51% of condensate oil used by Korea Refining Industry and Petrochemical Company comes from Iran (the first quarter of last year is the standard).