UPDATE 1-S.Korea Oct crude imports slip 2 pct y/y

Wed Nov 21, 2012 5:38am GMT

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* Total crude import at 81.249 mln bbls in Oct -KNOC

* Resumes Iran crude imports, buys 5.78 mln bbls in Oct

* Jan-Oct Iran crude imports at 44.55 mln bbls, down 40 pct y/y (Adds details)

By Meeyoung Cho

SEOUL, Nov 21 (Reuters) - South Korea imported 81.2 million barrels of crude oil in October, down 2 percent from a year ago, and resumed its imports of Iranian crude as scheduled, data from state-run Korea National Oil Corp showed on Wednesday.

Of the total, South Korea imported 5.78 million barrels of Iranian crude last month, the data showed. Its imports from Iran during the first 10 months of the year stood at 44.55 million barrels, down 40 percent on the year, KNOC said.

South Korea is the world's fifth largest importer of crude oil, and one of Iran's biggest oil customers. But purchases of oil from Iran had been hit as European Union sanctions made it tough to ship, insure and pay for the oil.

The West has imposed sanctions on Iran because it suspects Tehran wants to develop nuclear weapons, while Iran says its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes.

Korean refiners resumed imports of Iranian crude oil in September for October arrivals - with imports seen at about 6 million barrels per month, or 200,000 barrels per day of full contracted volumes - after it found a way to get around the EU ban on insurance cover.

Preliminary customs data released by the economy ministry on Nov. 1 showed South Korea's crude oil imports in October fell 2.2 percent from a year earlier to 81 million barrels. (Reporting by Meeyoung Cho; Editing by Himani Sarkar)