By Cho Chung-un, The pretax price of gasoline per liter fell to 522 won (44 cents) this month, lower than that of bottled water, largely due to the continu­ous drop in International crude oil prices, officials said Wednesday. According to Opinet of the Korea National Oil Corp., the price of gasoline before tax took a dive to 522 won on average this month, a 27 percent drop from a year ago and 44 percent lower than the same month in 2013. The price is comparable to that of bottled water, being sold at between 350 and 400 won at supermarket chains across the country that relies completely on international imports for its oil. The country imports crude oil to meet more than one-third of its energy demands.

Despite the sharp drop in oil prices, consumers remained numb over the price changes because of the large amount of tax im­posed on the oil products, market watchers said.

The benchmark gasoline price for consumers posted 1,435 won per liter as the government im­poses taxes of more than 900 won per liter. The list includes an oil tax of 745 won, value added tax of 143.58 won and a smaller cus­tom tax and import tariff.

As of the first week of December, the average pretax price per liter of gasoline sold in South Korea stood at 578 won, lower than the average price of 596 won among a group of 18 member countries of the Organ­ization for Economic Cooperation and Development. New Zealand topped the list at 782 won per liter, followed by the state of California in the United States at 700 won.

source : The Korea Herald Magazine, 2015, 12,17