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[Opinion] Fake Money

Posted April. 13, 2005 23:16,   


The person who said something about money being a driving force for everything was the Greek philosopher Diogenes, who lived around 500 BC. He is said to have been driven from his hometown after being caught making fake money. For a philosopher whose name is still being remembered by later generations, he has quite a bit of history. American poet Carl Sandburg is often quoted as saying, “Money is power, freedom, a cushion, the root of all evil, and the sum of blessings.” A proverb in Korea says, “With money, even a ghost can be caught.” All these satirize the power of money. The endless struggles against counterfeits are also caused because of this power.

The financial circle is suffering a tremendous headache with more and more fake money in circulation. The most prevalent of the many kinds are the 5,000-won notes, of which 50 percent is phony while the other half is genuine, the one million-won check that was printed off of a color copy machine, and the near-perfect counterfeit of $100 bills known as the “Super Note.” Some of them are so exquisitely made that even the bank tellers are fooled. The “Super Note,” in particular, is said to be indistinguishable even to most counterfeit discerning machines, not to mention the naked eyes. Would we have to hire a former counterfeiter for the job as done in the movie, “Catch Me If You Can”?

The counterfeit detection process, done by professionals, consists primarily of three steps. First, it is visually examined without equipment. Secondly, it is examined under a fluorescent lamp or under an electronic microscope to check the forgery prevention marks and filter out most of the counterfeits. The final measure is to employ special measures using various counterfeiting-related data, and the so-called “Super Note” or Euro counterfeits are found through this last step.

The problem is with the general public. How are they supposed to discern a fake from the change they receive from non-financial institutions after buying daily goods at the markets and stores? Though the authorities encourage calling “112” or the local police when a suspicious note is discovered, it isn’t exactly easy to identify these “suspicious notes.” It is not like the entire nation can learn how to find fake money. It is wearisome to worry about having counterfeit notes in the wallet while living among all other kinds of forgeries.

Editorial writer Song Young-eon youngeon@donga.com