Loan signature haunts KB

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Loan signature haunts KB

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KB Kookmin Bank’s image has once again been tarnished as it stands accused of tampering with loans without checking whether the borrower had agreed to changes by signing the revised contract, sources said yesterday.

Sources said a 65-year-old lender surnamed Lee filed a complaint with the Financial Supervisory Service last year accusing the bank of changing the terms of her loan using a forged signature.

Lee said her initial loan request was 24 million won ($21,000), but by the time she saw the final contract it had grown eight-fold to 192 million won.

The bank blamed one of the employees at a local branch office for the mistake, saying the person in question had failed to check whether the borrower had signed the contract. It said it discovered through an internal probe that someone else in a housing union that Lee belonged to had probably copied her signature to approve the change. The bank claimed Lee had also been notified of the revision.

“Our employees seem to have gone to Lee’s office to get her signature, but they failed to properly confirm whether the person who gave the signature was actually the loan recipient,” a KB employee said.

Loan request forms in Korea usually require the applicant to write the desired amount in both Chinese and Korean characters, but in Lee’s case, the revised amount had been written in numerals on top of the original sum, which had been crossed out.

The bank said Lee’s loan had been inflated because it included loans for other members of a union seeking housing relocation costs, of which Lee was a part.

Initially, members were supposed to receive their loans separately. But as some were rejected for having low credit ratings, a quick-fix solution was found by putting the total sum under Lee’s name.

“A lawsuit is pending on this case so we cannot confirm any details,” said a Kookmin bank employee.

“But as far as we know, the borrower [Lee] was aware of the changed amount and the 192 million won was withdrawn.”

He rejected the possibility of underhanded dealings by the bank’s employees as they would have known to write the sum in hangeul, the local alphabet, according to the bank’s regulation.

“All loans are handled by a computerized system, so there is zero chance for a third person to interfere,” he said.

The latest accusation comes after the bank took flak over the weekend for allegedly tampering with loan contracts by changing their maturity date without the approval of borrowers.

The Financial Supervisory Service said it has launched a probe to see if there are similar cases in the banking sector.

Adding to pressure on the industry, the Korea Financial Industry Union said it will launch a general strike from Monday for the first time in 12 years.

One of the union’s demands is a 7 percent increase in wages that is expected to fuel public anger.


By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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