South Korean oil refiners are in talks with Iran to resume oil imports by using Iranian tankers as a way to circumvent European Union sanctions. Negotiations are currently underway between Tehran and officials of Hyundai Oilbank, SK Energy. A spokesman for SK Energy, one of the South Korean refiners which previously bought Iranian oil, confirmed the ongoing talks but refused to elaborate. An official of the Seoul's knowledge economy ministry said Seoul refiners were discussing with Tehran ways to resume imports, including letting the Middle Eastern nation provide tankers or cover insurance for shipments.
South Korea bought 9.4 percent of its crude oil from Iran last year. It had been sharply reducing purchases this year in return for a waiver from separate US sanctions on Tehran. Imports stopped entirely in July when an EU oil embargo on Iran over its nuclear programme took effect, banning European firms from insuring Iranian oil shipments.
South Korea is a close ally of the United States, which stations 28,500 troops in the country to deter any North Korean attack. But Iran is the South Korea's third-largest trade market in the Middle East. Tehran warned in June it would reconsider ties with Seoul if it stopped importing oil from Iran.