1024 GMT October 14, 2019
Seoul and Tehran will likely sign a series of deals on promoting oil trade early next month, when President Park Geun-hye is to make a trip to Iran, at the head of a delegation of some 200 businesspeople, to promote business ties between the two countries, according to Yonhap.
Gyun-hye's visit, the first by a South Korean president since the two sides established diplomatic ties in 1962, comes as Iran has emerged as a high-potential market after years of international sanctions were lifted in January.
Iran, with a population of over 80 million, is a resource-rich nation, holding the world's fourth-largest oil reserves and the second-largest gas reserves.
"South Korea and Iran are expected to sign several memoranda of understanding as South Korea is seeking to find a stable source of crude, while Iran wants to have a base for tapping into the northeast Asian market," an industry source said.
With the signing of the deals, Seoul is moving to increase crude imports from Iran to around 280,000 barrels per day (bpd) this year from 115,000 bpd last year, he said.
Iran had been a major exporter of crude to South Korea, but international sanctions had sharply reduced bilateral trade.
Last year, South Korea imported crude oil worth $2.20 billion from Iran showing a 51-percent decline from the previous year and far lower than $9.36 billion in 2011.
By volume, imports of crude and condensates stood at 42.4 million barrels last year. Condensates, which are very similar to light stabilized crude oil, are used as feedstock for oil refining and other petrochemical industries.
Crude imports from Iran, however, began to surge this year following the lifting of international sanctions.
In the first three months of this year, South Korean imports of Iranian crude jumped 17.6 percent on-year to $629 million, with the volume reaching 22.85 million barrels.
Imports of Iranian condensates rose more than ninefold from a year earlier to $247 million in the January-March period. For all of last year, imports of condensates from Iran came to $358 million.
In addition to boosting imports of Iranian crude, South Korea will push for a joint project to stockpile two million barrels of Iranian crude and condensates at a storage facility south of Seoul, according to the sources.