According to Reuters, the world's fifth-biggest crude oil buyer imported 2.26 million tons of Iranian crude oil in March 2017.
South Korea — one of Asia's major Iranian oil customers — mainly buys condensate, or an ultra-light oil, but its data does not provide a breakdown of imports by types.
Seoul has reduced purchases of Tehran's oil in recent months compared to last year's levels, despite efforts by Iran to retain its Asian buyers by cutting official selling prices.
That came as National Iranian Oil Company had cut supplies to South Korea by three million barrels each month from the start of this month due to lower production and a start of a new splitter, according to three sources.
For the first quarter of 2018, South Korea's imports from Iran fell 39.4 percent to 3.45 million tons, or 280,736 bpd, versus 5.69 million tons over the same period last year, according to the data.
Meanwhile, crude imports from Qatar in January-March of this year were 2.19 million tons, or 178,652 bpd — up 2.4 percent from 2.14 million tons during the same period last year. South Korea typically switches to Qatari condensate to replace Iranian one.
Overall, South Korea's March crude oil imports were 10.91 million tons, or 2.58 million bpd, down 14 percent from 12.68 million tons from last year, the data showed.
In the first three months of this year, South Korea imported 36.70 million tons of crude, or nearly three million bpd — down 0.4 percent from 36.88 million tons from the previous year.
The country's final data for March crude imports data will be released by state-run Korea National Oil Corp. (KNOC) later this month.