Demand for premium gasoline is on the wane despite increased sales of imported cars -- a strange combination of data as the two usually move in tandem rather than inverse proportion.
The Korea National Oil Corporation said on Monday that Koreans consumed 533,000 barrels of premium gasoline from January to September this year, down 2.9 percent from 549,000 barrels during the same period last year.
Some 95,706 imported cars were sold in the first nine months of this year, up 20.1 percent on-year.
Experts say that demand for premium gasoline, which was showing an upward trend in tandem with rising car imports in former years, has dropped due to higher oil prices.
Demand stood at a mere 38,000 barrels in 2001 but this figure had jumped to 748,000 barrels by last year. Imported car sales increased from 7,727 to 105,037 units over the same period.
Experts say that as models with engine displacements of 2 liters or less have started to dominate the local import market, car owners have become more sensitive to oil prices.
The price difference between premium and regular gasoline is also widening. The former cost W187.55 (US$1=W1,106) more per liter in 2009, but this gap grew to W200.23 in 2010 and W206.93 in 2011.