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[Opinion] Accounting Fraud

Posted August. 12, 2005 03:04,   


Manipulating management operations using false accounting is called book cooking. What kinds of ancient Chinese proverbs best represent such conduct?

One candidate is “[Deceiving people by] cunning words and a specious look on one’s face,” but the meaning of this proverb is not close enough to what we are trying to express. Another one is, “Propping up the lower stone by pulling out the upper one,” which means “makeshift.” The “monkey mind” can also be an alternative. These two expressions, however, are about quantity, so they are irrelevant to book cooking, which means lying about the essence of something. Maybe “Selling dog meat while displaying lamb heads” might be the most appropriate expression, as it means fraudulently selling cheap dog meat as if it were lamb meat with lamb heads on display.

“Window dressing” is another name for book cooking, which means “decorating a showcase.” The definition of window dressing, looked up in the dictionary, is “to transmit distorted facts to the outside by hiding something bad.” This can be called the Western equivalence of “selling dog meat while displaying lamb heads.” A more outspoken English expression is “accounting fraud.”

The Doosan Group confessed to accounting fraud worth 279.7 billion won. It was also reported that 13.8 billion won of interest rates for the owner’s family loans were paid from the company’s funds. The loans allegedly included a share for the owner’s four-year-old grandson. The confession, following the accounting scandals of Daewoo Group, Hanbo Group, Kia Group and SK Global, is quite a shock as Doosan is known to be a “reliable rich company that could last 100 years.” Though the confession itself was triggered by the recent dispute between brothers, it is unbelievable that such fake financial statements, which can be called a health report of large enterprises, have been considered acceptable.

One might refute that even countries like the United States have book cooking scandals such as those of Enron, Merck, WorldCom and the like. One might say it is a matter of more or less. Nevertheless, it is not the case. In the case of Korea, what is problematic is that the stocks in question are those of large conglomerates, which are directly related to Korea’s overseas credit. Daewoo had tarnished Korea’s reputation in the name of “worldwide management” by committing such an enormous accounting fraud that it could be listed in the Guinness Book. What can we live on, if Korea is labeled a country that sells dog meat while displaying lamb heads, or a nation of “window dressing?”

Kim Chung-sik, Editorial Writer, skim@donga.com