Pay Special Attention to North Korean Diplomats’ Passports

Daily NK
Kwak Dae Jung

On March 31st, 1970, Yodo of JAL (Japan Airlines) was hijacked on the way from Tokyo to Fukuoka. The hijackers were Japanese youngsters aged from the teens to twenties who dreamed of a simultaneous revolution of the world. They called themselves the Japanese Red Army (JRA).

They headed for North Korea. In fact, their planned destination had been Cuba, but North Korea suddenly came to their mind as the nearest Communist country they could reach with the hijacked domestic airplane. North Korea has protected these terrorists as political refugees since then.

News about the 9 hijackers of Yodo has not been reported except that they lived in the lodgings that North Korea provided near Pyongyang. In 1998, one of the hijackers was arrested in Japan. It was disclosed that he had smuggled himself into Japan three years ago.

In 1996, another hijacker was arrested. His name was Tanaka Yosimi. He was 21 years old when he took part in the hijacking. At the time of arrest, he was 47 years old. He was arrested not in Japan, nor in North Korea, but near the border between Cambodia and Vietnam. He carried a North Korean diplomat’s passport whose holder was named Kim Il Soo. In his suitcase were Super Notes the face value of which amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.

The former hijacker was arrested for passing forgeries after 25 years of hiding. The so-called Super Note is also referred to as Super K because its serial number starts with K. Super Notes are still found all around the world 10 years after his arrest. He had been closely followed by the U.S. Treasury’s Secret Service (SS), a special bureau to investigate forgery, since his several year operations in Southeast Asia had been sensed.

Tanaka Yosimi was judged not guilty regarding the counterfeit bills after a three year trial in Thailand. His consistent denial of possessing the forgeries seemed to work for him. However, he was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment regarding his participation in the hijacking after he was taken to Japan in 2000.

Many forgeries were found in 1996

One reason to suspect North Korea counterfeiting dollars is that many people with a North Korean diplomat’s passport like Tanaka Yosimi were caught and arrested for having bundles of counterfeit U.S. dollar bills.

1996 saw many cases of arrests for passing North Korean forgeries. In March, while Tanaka Yosimi was arrested in Thailand, a North Korean official resident in Moscow, Russia was expelled because he was caught changing 800 thousand counterfeit U.S. dollars. An officer in the North Korean embassy in Hanoi was also caught carrying 3 million counterfeit U.S. dollars, and all his forgeries were confiscated by the Vietnamese authorities. Later the Vietnamese government returned the forgeries to North Korea because the North consistently claimed that the counterfeit bills were its property.

In December, a third-grade officer in the North Korean consulate in Ulan-Bator, Mongolia, was exiled because he was captured changing 100 thousand counterfeit U.S. dollars. 75 thousand counterfeit dollars were withdrawn, but the rest could not. Also in December, a North Korean trade counselor in Rumania was exiled because he was caught changing 50 thousand counterfeit dollars.

The following are the reasons why many forgery cases were disclosed in 1996: ▲ The method of how Super Notes can be identified has been found and widely known since they were first discovered in 1994. ▲ The U.S. information agency consistently chased them in cooperation with international societies. ▲ North Korea was pressed to pass them quickly because the U.S. changed its 100 dollar bill after 68 years of use.

In April, 1998, Gil Jae Kyung, who was the accountant in charge of Kim Jong Il’s slush fund, and who had died in 2000, was caught changing 30 thousand counterfeit dollars in Vladivostok, Russia. At the moment, he was carrying a passport on which the name of Lee Moon Moo was printed as its holder’s name. He insisted that he was Lee Moon Moo, a trade counselor in the North Korean embassy in Moscow. When his identity as Kim Jong Il’s private accountant was disclosed, it made sensational news.

American and Russian forgery inspectors had sensed Gil Jae Kyung’s passing forgeries several times and followed him for some months. On the other hand, in 1976 Gil Jae Kyung was expelled from Sweden because he was captured bootlegging narcotics. At the time, he was the North Korean ambassador to Sweden.

As seen from above, most North Korean forgery holders have been camouflaged as diplomats. If it had been a country other than North Korea, considerable diplomatic friction could have occurred, but North Korea was so notorious for international crimes that those countries concerned did not raise much complaint.

In August, 1995, a Japanese businessman was paid 10 thousand dollars with counterfeit bills for his trade with North Korea. The North Korean trade company said they had not known that, which seems to have been a mere excuse. It is resonable to assume that the North Korean trade company was connected with the North Korean forgery ring because it would be impossible to be able to hold a bundle of 100 counterfeit hundred dollar bills without any connection.


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