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Sellers of Counterfeit Korean Artworks Arrested

Posted April. 04, 2007 07:55,   


Those involved in counterfeiting art and who fraudulently copied 100 paintings by famous artists including Lee Jung-seop, Park Soo-keun, and Chun Kyung-ja, which cannot be even distinguished by experts, were arrested yesterday.

The Seoul Seocho Police Station arrested a person with a family name of Bok (51) on April 3 who was accused of selling counterfeit paintings of famous artists (by forging their signatures) from last October to last month. It also applied for an arrest warrant for Bok’s younger sibling (49). In addition, it indicted three others, including an unknown artist with a surname of Roh (64), who painted counterfeit paintings without physical detention.

According to the police, Bok has been well known among intermediary sellers of artworks and artists after running an art gallery in Insa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul 10 years ago. His brother suggested the idea of “selling the artworks of famous artists to earn money as they are in high demand.” So, he employed four unknown artists including Roh to produce counterfeits.

A police investigation revealed that they established a so-called “factory” (art studio) in places like Paju City and Anyang City in Gyeonggi Province, and counterfeited 90 paintings of 24 famous artists. They also bought 38 counterfeit artworks of artists including Chun Kyung-ja and Park Soo-keun. From this, they ended up earning about 180 million won by selling 108 of the paintings to galleries and art collectors. The police estimate that the real market value of their original versions amounts to a total of 101.1 billion won.

Four unknown artists employed for the fraud had their roles divided depending on their talents.

Roh, who has painted movie theater signs for about 40 years, mostly painted figure paintings of Byun Shi-ji and Lee Man-ik, while the other three, including Park (47), painted most of the still paintings of Lee Jung-seop at the art studio in Anyang City.

They had the paintings in pamphlets and art books from art exhibitions enlarged to real-life size and photocopied them in color. Then they placed a piece of thin tracing paper over them and copied the sketch to paint their copies.

Last December they even brought original copies of “The Female Diver” by Byun Shi-ji, and “The Moon Flower” and “The Encounter” of the “Family” series by Lee Man-ik, and copied them at an art gallery named “M” in Insa-dong.

According to police official Lee Man-ik, a prestigious Western artist said, “It was well-done. The artist must be an art major, but it obviously is a counterfeit because the color set I used which I bought abroad wasn’t used here.” The Korean Art Appraisal Association even appraised the counterfeit of Byun Shi-ji’s “The Pony and the Boy” purchased via another route as authentic, but the artist revealed later, “I did not paint this picture.” One of the counterfeits of Chun Kyung-ja’s paintings seized by the police from them looked so original that even experts could not distinguish it from the real one.