Iranian crude exports to South Korea surged 39 per cent in July, according to the latest data from state-owned Korean National Oil Corporation (KNOC).

South Korea imported 5.9 million barrels of crude from Iran in July 2013, compared with 4.3 million barrels in the same month last year and 4.1 million barrels in the preceding month.

Before the introduction of stricter US and EU sanctions in 2012, South Korea was the third-largest importer of Iranian crude after Japan and India, buying 10 per cent of the Islamic Republic’s total exports in 2011.

Iran was the fifth-largest crude exporter to South Korea in July after Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and Qatar.

In June, Washington renewed six-month sanctions waivers for China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Turkey. Earlier in the year, it handed new waivers to Japan and 10 EU countries.