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Asia’s third largest crude importer South Korea took a record 2.77mn b/d in 2015. Of this, 2.30mn b/d came from the Middle East, also a record. But, while the overall volumes from the region continue to edge higher (see graph 1), Korea has slowly been diversifying its crude sources.
The region provided 82.9% of Korea’s crude imports in 2015. Whilst still extremely high – and higher than its East Asian peers (see graph 2), this is down on almost 87% for 2013 (see table, p9).
One of five countries to have maintained regular imports of Iranian crude under the international sanctions regime (with a waiver), South Korea has nevertheless consistently cut purchases since sanctions were ratcheted up in late 2011 and 2012. Volumes have fallen from 247,000 b/d in 2011, when Iran was Korea’s third biggest crude supplier, to just 114,000 b/d last year when it was number seven.
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