The delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs Yoon Kang-hyun will seek details on the US decision not to grant any waivers on imports of Iranian oil beyond May 1.
"As we have some time until the May deadline, we’re planning to try to see if we can persuade the US government to extend waivers," an unnamed South Korean government official told Reuters.
South Korea is a key buyer of Iranian condensate, an ultra light oil Iran which is mainly used as a raw material to make petrochemicals such as plastics.
According to Reuters, Seoul has told US officials that there are few options for getting the same quality of Iranian condensate from other suppliers.
Asian customers favor Iran's South Pars condensate for its rich yield of naphtha which is a key feedstock for petrochemicals and a gasoline blending component.
On Tuesday, trade ministry officials reportedly met with petrochemical producers in Seoul to weigh the potential impact of the US decision and find ways to minimize it.
South Korea’s oil imports from Iran rose 23 percent in March, the highest since the country resumed buying Iranian oil in January.
South Korean refiners imported 1.2 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran, or 284,639 barrels per day (bpd), more than a five-fold increase from January as buying ramped up.
South Korea can buy up to 200,000 bpd of oil from Iran under six-month waivers given to eight countries by the United States in November.
South Korea's imports of Iranian oil more than quadrupled in February from a month ago, nearing pre-sanction levels, government data released Tuesday shows.
Before the sanctions, South Korea was the biggest client of Iranian condensate with 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) on top of 100,000 bpd of crude oil.
SK Incheon Petrochem, Hyundai Chemical, Hanwha Total Petrochemicals and Lotto Chemical are regular buyers of Iranian condensate.
The United States is reportedly pushing its fast-growing condensate on South Korea, for which Seoul has to refit it refineries which are adjusted to process Iranian grades.
Any refitting requires enormous financial expenses, but that is what the profit-centric administration of President Donald Trump is pushing for.
The United States is now the world’s biggest oil producer, pumping more than 12 million bpd with exports topping 3 million bpd.
According to Reuters calculation based on the customs data, South Korea’s oil shipments from the United States were more than seven times higher in March at 1 million tonnes, from 134,911 tonnes a year earlier.
Imports from Saudi Arabia, South Korea’s top crude oil supplier, fell 9.5 percent to 2.7 million tonnes, from a year earlier, the news agency said.
By retracting its oil exemptions, the Trump administration is in fact encroaching on the energy security of other countries, industry analysts say.
China warned Tuesday that the US decision to impose sanctions on buyers of Iranian oil will “intensify turmoil” in the Middle East and in the international energy market.
“China firmly opposes the US implementation of unilateral sanctions and its so-called long-armed jurisdiction,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing in Beijing.
“The relevant move by the United States will intensify the turmoil in the Middle East and the turmoil in the international energy market.”
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the US policy is “dangerous” and does not comply with diplomatic maturity as he lashed out at Washington for imposing its Iran sanctions on other countries.
“Why are you putting pressure on other countries? Take your own measures. Why do other countries have to obey your unilateral decisions?” he said, addressing US leaders.