South Korea's imports of crude from Iran rose by 7 percent in June from a year ago but its oil shipments from the OPEC member in the first half of this year fell 11 percent year on year, or below last year's daily average, customs data showed on July 15.
South Korea imported 604,402 tonnes of Iranian crude oil last month, or 147,676 barrels per day (bpd), higher than 284,327 tonnes a month ago and 565,444 tonnes a year ago, the preliminary customs data showed, Reuters reported.
The country's Iran oil intake in January-June of this year, however, marked 3.1 million tonnes or 126,145 bpd, meaning 11 percent lower than 3.5 million tonnes or 141,839 bpd imported a year earlier, and also 6 percent less than last year's average of 134,000 bpd, according to the data and Reuters calculation.
Iranian oil imports by Asia's fourth-largest economy fluctuate monthly as one of its two refiners -- SK Energy and Hyundai Oilbank -- that import the oil usually buys the crude only every other month.
South Korea and other Asian buyers are supposed to hold their crude imports from the OPEC member at end-2013 levels - or between 1 million and 1.1 million bpd - under the terms of the Geneva accord between Iran and six major powers.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he held good and serious talks with his Iranian counterpart on July 14 as the two sides raced to narrow wide gaps on Tehran's nuclear program less than a week before a July 20 deadline to reach a deal.
The powers, also grouping Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, want Tehran to significantly scale back its nuclear enrichment programme to make sure it cannot yield nuclear bombs. Iran's priority is to get sanctions that have severely damaged its oil-dependent economy lifted as soon as possible.
South Korea imported a total of 9.8 million tonnes of crude last month, or 2.4 million bpd, compared with 10.4 million tonnes in June of last year, the customs data showed.
Final data for June crude oil imports will be released by state-run Korea National Oil Corp later this month.