South Korea's Iran crude oil imports drop 62.2 percent year-on-year in December

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SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s crude oil shipments from Iran slid 62.2 percent in December from a year ago, with imports in full-year 2015 falling 8.0 percent from 2014 in accordance with sanction requirements over Tehran’s nuclear program.

The world’s fifth-largest crude importer brought 207,629 tonnes of Iranian crude in December, or 49,094 barrels per day (bpd), compared with 548,598 tonnes a year ago, preliminary data from its customs office showed on Friday.

South Korea along with other major Iranian crude buyers should import the crude no more than the level imported in 2014 under the sanctions imposed on Tehran against its nuclear program.

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog is likely to confirm on Friday that Iran has curtailed its nuclear program as agreed with world powers, paving the way for sanctions to be lifted, Iran and a diplomatic source said.

The South Korean customs data showed Seoul bought 5.7 million tonnes, or 114,595 bpd, of crude from Tehran in 2015, down 8 percent from 6.2 million tonnes, or 124,497 bpd, in 2014.

South Korea’s crude oil import data usually includes condensate, without giving a breakdown.

Among South Korea’s four refiners, SK Energy Co Ltd and Hyundai Oilbank Co Ltd import oil from Iran. Their imports typically swing from month to month.

Overall, Seoul imported 13.4 million tonnes of crude last month, or 3.2 million bpd, up 23.5 percent from 10.8 million tonnes a year ago.

Final data for December imports with more details will be available from state-run Korea National Oil Corp later this month.

Reporting by Meeyoung Cho, editing by G Crosse