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EghtesadOnline: South Korea's imports of crude oil climbed 5.1% last year from a year earlier, driven by a surge in shipments of Iranian oil following the removal of international trade sanctions against the country, government data showed Monday.

The combined inbound purchase of crude oil reached 1.78 billion barrels at the end of December, compared with 1.26 billion barrels the previous year, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, Yonhap News Agency reported. The import of petroleum products grew 8.3% on-year to 333.4 million barrels in the cited period.

The increase in the country's crude oil imports is largely attributable to a spike in the purchase of Iranian crude oil in 2016 which grew by nearly three-fold to 111.9 million barrels from 42.4 million barrels in the previous year.

South Korea has been one of the backbone customers of crude oil from Iran. It was one of the handful of countries that continued to take in Iran's crude oil under special waivers when sanctions were in place, according to Financial Tribune.

The streak of a cheaper crude oil price in the Middle East propelled more purchases by Korean oil importers, with annual shipments growing 9.7% on-year to 926.2 million barrels. The Dubai crude oil price sank by an average of 18.3% in 2016 from a year earlier.

The inbound shipment of petroleum products also grew 8.3% on-year to 333.4 million barrels as of end-2016, fueled by firm demand for naphtha and liquefied petroleum gas.

Meanwhile, South Korea's export of oil products amounted to 488.1 million barrels at the end of last year, up 2.3% from 477.4 million barrels a year ago, on the back of an increase in shipments to Africa and Europe.

Iran sanctions Iran oil Iran-South Korea trade