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S. Korea to open 1,300 'thrift gas stations' by 2015

SEOUL, Nov. 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will set up 1,300 gas stations selling cheaper gasoline and diesel by 2015 as part of an ongoing effort to control inflationary pressure, the government said Thursday.

The "thrift gas stations" will receive their fuel from state-run Korea National Oil Corp. (KNOC) and the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (Nonghyup), the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said.

Because they will be given lower-priced fuel than existing gas stations, the average price for gasoline may be 100 won (US$0.08) cheaper per liter, although the exact price benefit is impossible to gauge at present.

The first thrift station will start operations in December, with at least 500 to be set up within one year. At present Nonghyup directly operates some 300 gas stations that offer cheaper fuel to drivers, with 50 others registered as selling fuel at below average prices.

"Nonghyup and the KNOC will jointly buy fuel from local refiners or from abroad, so they can be sold to the thrift gas stations," the ministry said.

The ministry in charge of the country's industrial and energy policies, said that these new thrift outlets will make up 10 percent of all gas stations in the country by the target year.

"Prices will be kept down further by the gas stations operating on a self-service basis, where the driver fills his or her car," it said. "These stations will not give out gifts to users, which have contributed to higher prices."

The government also plans to convert all 167 gas stations at the country's highway rest areas into thrift stations by 2015, with 30 to be switched next year, it said.

"Despite the fuel being cheaper than at other gas stations, the state-run Korea Institute of Petroleum Management will regularly conduct quality checks to protect consumers," the ministry said.

The latest measures come as the country's consumer prices grew 3.9 percent on-year in October. Seoul had originally aimed to control inflation at around 3 percent levels, but soaring international fuel, grain and commodities prices made it impossible to meet this goal.

Presently, the government is trying to keep inflation at around 4 percent for 2011.

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