* Crude imports from Iran in June at 565,444 tonnes
* Total June crude imports at 10.44 mln tonnes, down 2.5 pct y/y
* June Iran oil imports at 138,157 bpd vs 148,016 bpd in Dec-May 2013 (Adds bpd comparison vs last six months, more details)
By Meeyoung Cho
SEOUL, July 15 (Reuters) - South Korea’s imports of crude from Iran dropped 23 percent in June from a year ago, missing its target for cuts in average daily shipments from the Middle Eastern country in June-November.
Countries that import Iranian oil must make continuous cuts to keep getting six-month waivers under U.S. sanctions aimed at cutting Iran’s flow of oil money and forcing it to negotiate curbing its nuclear programme. Import levels can swing sharply month to month.
As part of its efforts to win waivers for June to November, South Korea pledged to cut its Iran oil imports 15 percent over the period from December 2012 to May 2013, two sources told Reuters last month.
The world’s No. 5 crude buyer cut its Iranian crude imports to 565,444 tonnes in June, preliminary data from Korea Customs Service showed on Monday.
On a daily basis, South Korea bought 138,157 barrels per day (bpd) from Iran in June, up 16 percent from a month ago, according to Reuters calculations based on the customs data.
Compared with a daily rate of 148,016 bpd for December to May - according to Reuters calculation based on data from state-run Korea National Oil Corp - June’s daily rate was down 7 percent.
To hits its target of importing 15 percent less crude compared with the December-May period South Korea should be taking less than 126,000 bpd.
In May Iran’s top buyers - China, India, Japan and South Korea - together raised their purchases 11 percent from a year ago to 1.13 million barrels per day (bpd), according to Reuters calculations from trade and official import data.
South Korea still managed to cut its December-May volumes from Iran 20 percent from the same period a year earlier, meeting its earlier declared target and winning its third waiver on sanctions from the United States.
Overall, South Korea imported a total 10.44 million tonnes of crude last month against 10.71 million tonnes imported a year ago, the customs data showed.
Final data for South Korea’s crude oil imports last month will be published by state-run Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC) later in the month. (Reporting by Meeyoung Cho and Jane Chung; Editing by Tom Hogue and Michael Urquhart)