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Officials fret over Seoul counterfeit stance

Dec 22,2005
While Seoul is sticking to its official line that there is no conclusive evidence of North Korean counterfeiting, some officials here worry that the government’s fear of stirring up the North and perhaps jeopardizing the six-party nuclear talks has made its position with Washington untenable.
A South Korean intelligence official told the JoongAng Daily yesterday that the North’s counterfeiting activities have been monitored since the early 1990s and that evidence gathered during that period is enough to give credibility to Washington’s claim that Pyongyang has manufactured forged U.S. dollar bills.
“With current government policies in place that want to keep the North’s regime afloat, the government wants to delay acting on the issue as long as possible,” the official said. “North Korean counterfeiting activities are nothing new, and they are a known lifeline for the North.”
Most officials here have been dodging questions and repeating that the administration wants more decisive evidence. “For us, there is the big picture to be considered. We have never said that we will just sit down and do nothing if there are illegal activities,” said one senior government official.
In a bid to counter the counterfeiting and sales of contraband goods, Washington has slapped sanctions on financial institutions and North Korean companies suspected of participating in such dealings. They most recently asserted those claims to diplomats, including those from Seoul, at a briefing last week on the counterfeit $100 “supernotes.”
The U.S. ambassador to Korea, Alexander Vershbow, has cited counterfeiting as one of the elements of his characterization of Pyongyang ass a “criminal regime.”
And a former official at the U.S. State Department, David Asher, told the JoongAng Ilbo that in addition to counterfeiting and drug trafficking, the North also distributes about $200 million per year of falsely labeled cigarettes.


by Brian Lee


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