Reuters

SEOUL, Feb 15 (Reuters) - South Korea's January crude imports from Iran more than doubled from a year ago as the Middle Eastern country continues to increase its output to reclaim its market share.

South Korea, one of Iran's major oil customers, imported 1.79 million tonnes of Iranian crude, or 424,143 barrels per day (bpd), in January, compared with 859,223 tonnes a year ago and 1.55 million tonnes in the previous month, customs office data showed on Wednesday.

Iran, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), was exempted from a supply cut deal agreed by OPEC members last year. Iran's current oil output was close to 3.9 million bpd, the country's oil minister said last month.

The world's fifth-largest crude importer's intake of Saudi Arabian crude, in contrast, fell 17.3 percent to 3.32 million tonnes, or 785,084 bpd, in the first month of 2017 from a month ago as the world's top oil exporter complies with the global supply cut deal.

Saudi Arabia cut its oil output more than expected in January, reducing its production by more than 700,000 bpd to 9.748 million bpd, but that was still less than called for under the deal, according to an OPEC report.

Overall, Asia's fourth-largest economy imported 12.41 million tonnes of crude oil in January this year, or 2.93 million bpd, up 14 percent from 10.88 million tonnes a year earlier but down 6.3 percent from 13.24 million tonnes a month ago, according to the customs data.

Final data for January crude oil imports will be released by state-run Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC) later this month.

(Reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Adrian Croft)

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