Counterfeit US$100 'supernote' found in South Korea could have been forged by the North

Head of the KEB Hana Bank's anti-counterfeit centre Yi Ho Joong inspects a fake US$100 banknote at the bank in Seoul. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - A new high-quality counterfeit US$100 bill has been found in South Korea, bank officials said on Tuesday (Dec 12), prompting suggestions the sanctions-hit North might have resumed forging "supernotes".

A team of forgery specialists at KEB Hana Bank have confirmed that a US$100 note found at a Seoul branch in November was a fake which was almost impossible to distinguish from real banknotes, they said.

"It was the first of a new kind of supernote ever found in the world," Yi Ho Joong, head of the KEB Hana Bank's anti-counterfeit centre, told AFP.

Previous "supernotes" were dated either 2001 or 2003 but the new forgery is dated 2006.

The same methods including raised and dented printing and no-smudge inks that are normally used for real banknotes have been applied to the newly found supernote, he said.

"You need facilities worth some US$100 million (S$135 million) to produce counterfeit bills of this quality and no crime rings would invest that much to make fake dollars," he said. "Only state-level organisations can afford such facilities."

South Korean news media suggested the North might have resumed producing fake banknotes to circumvent tightening international sanctions against its nuclear and missile development.

But Yi said there was no evidence to link the newly found supernote to North Korea - although Pyongyang has a track record of its diplomats getting caught with high-quality forgeries.

The bank has alerted judicial and intelligence authorities about the discovery, Yi added.

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