Korea's oil-refining and petrochemical industries, which achieved record-breaking results in the first quarter of this year with more than 4 trillion won operating profits, are rushing to import crude oil from Iran.
Compared to that produced in other Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Iranian crude oil is cheaper and also allows more extracts of naphtha, the basic raw material for petrochemical products.
According to the Korea National Oil Corp. on May 21, Korea's import of Iranian crude oil reached 46.72 million barrels last year, up 105 percent from 22.84 million barrels a year ago.
Iran emerged as Korea's second-largest crude oil source country, overtaking Kuwait (39.46 million barrels), standing right behind Saudi Arabia (77.11 million barrels).
Before 2011 when the United States and Europe started imposing economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic, Korea's crude oil imports from Iran had stood high at around 87.18 million barrels.
Since then, however, the nation's crude oil imports from Iran have been on a downward trend, falling to 42.4 million barrels in 2015. Starting from January 2016 when the international sanctions against Iran were lifted, the nation's oil imports from Iran have picked up at a rapid pace.