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North Korea and the supernote enigma

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  • Center Left
    Independent
    Central, FL
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    I just learned about the idea that N. Korea has counterfeited nearly perfect US 100 dollar bills. Story below.
    -----------------------------------------------
    North Korea, it is often said, is a criminal state. One of the more persistent stories supporting that allegation is that the North Koreans are counterfeiting U.S. currency. Through repetition, the claim has taken on an aura of proven fact. This in turn has been cited as justification for everything from imposing punitive measures against North Korea to suggesting that the nation cannot be trusted as a partner in nuclear negotiations.

    The evidence against North Korea is widely regarded as convincing. “The North Koreans have denied that they are engaged in the distribution and manufacture of counterfeits,” says Daniel Glaser of the U.S. Treasury Department, “but the evidence is overwhelming that they are. There’s no question of North Korea’s involvement.”1 There is no denying that North Korean citizens have been caught passing counterfeit currency in Europe and Asia, and some defectors from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK — the formal name for North Korea) claim to have first-hand knowledge of state-run counterfeiting operations. In Western media reports the case is treated as proven. Yet the closer one examines the matter, the murkier the picture becomes.

    Counterfeit currency attributed to North Korea raises deep concern due to its extremely high quality. Dubbed supernotes, their production process closely matches that of the genuine article, and the engraving is so fine it rivals that of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

    Unlike most of the world’s counterfeit currency, which is printed on offset presses or through digital processes, supernotes are printed on an intaglio press. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing uses Giori intaglio presses for the engraved portions of its bank notes, and an offset press for the background colors. Supernotes use the same technology. An intaglio press operates by applying ink on its plates and then wiping them clean, leaving ink only in the engraved lines. The plate is then pressed against the paper, depositing the ink in ridges. The result is raised printing that ordinary counterfeits can’t duplicate. Supernotes have the same look and feel as U.S. currency.

    North Korea purchased an intaglio press from the Swiss firm Giori in the mid-1970s. This fact is regarded as an indication that the nation has the technology available to print supernotes. Yet there have been significant advances in the field since the time of its purchase. Because certain auxiliary equipment is lacking, the model owned by the DPRK is considered by experts to be incapable of achieving the level of quality seen on supernotes. Not long after purchasing the Giori, North Korea defaulted on its loan after having made just two payments. For that reason, as well as due to U.S. pressure, Giori ceased shipping spare parts to North Korea many years ago, and according to one expert the North Korean printing press now stands idle.

    One striking feature of supernotes is the composition of the paper. Throughout the world, currency is printed on cotton-based paper. But U.S. currency is different, being composed of a mix of 75 percent cotton pulp and 25 percent linen. Supernote counterfeits rely on the same unique combination. To produce secure paper like that used in U.S. currency requires advanced technology and the cost far surpasses that of manufacturing regular paper. The price of even a small plant can exceed $100 million. To remain profitable, a paper plant would have to produce more than four thousand metric tons of such banknote paper a year. But the quantity of supernotes seen in circulation so far has required only a tiny fraction of that total. It would seem, then, that the only option for North Korea would be to procure its paper from an existing plant outside of its borders. This would be no easy matter. The paper used in U.S. currency is produced on a Fourdrinier machine at a plant located in the state of Georgia. This machine uses longer pulp fibers than the short pulp fibers used by the rest of the world relying on cylinder mold methods.

    Former director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Thomas Ferguson comments on the quality of the paper in supernotes. “They’re not simulating the paper features by printing on the paper. They are not using somebody else’s paper or bleaching the ink off of genuine notes. Someone specifically made paper, which is a pretty big commitment.”

    Remarkably, supernote paper even incorporates colored microfibers, a thin security thread marked “USA 100″ in microprint, and a multi-tone watermark. These features can only be produced through the use of sophisticated technology at substantial cost. One expert who conducted a chemical and physical analysis of supernotes discovered that the cotton originated in the southern region of the U.S. — precisely where the Bureau of Engraving and Printing gets its cotton. Southern U.S. cotton is available on the world market, but this would make it traceable to some extent. The expert conducting the analysis is said to have been warned by “interested parties” not to make the results public. The implication was that these parties worked for the U.S. government.

    One of the special features of U.S. currency is the use of optically variable ink (OVI) manufactured by the Swiss firm Société Industrielle et Commerciale de Produits Amon (SICPA). This organization is the sole source for OVI. On the U.S. $100 bill, this color shifting ink is employed on the number in the lower right hand corner. Turning the bill one way, the number appears bronze green. Turned another, it appears black. Supernotes duplicate the same color shift. This particular color combination is reserved for the exclusive use of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing and is manufactured at only one location in the world. A joint venture was established between SICPA and the California-based OCLI laboratory to manufacture this combination of OVI ink. Bronze-green and black OVI is mixed at the SICPA plant in Virginia, which serves only the U.S. market. The rest of the world gets its supply of OVI from SICPA’s main plant in Switzerland.

    North Korea was at one time a client of SICPA. Each nation is assigned a unique color combination. The DPRK’s combination was green and magenta, which Treasury official Daniel Glazer asserts can be manipulated to appear similar to the U.S. combination. Yet a forensic laboratory has found that the security ink used in supernotes is not similar. It matches U.S. currency. Furthermore, it is probable that North Korea has long ago exhausted its limited supply of OVI. SICPA spokeswoman Sarah Van Horn points out, “We ceased all OVI deliveries in early 2001, and later that year all security ink supplies.” Severing trade with North Korea came at the request of U.S. officials, long before the Bush Administration publicly accused North Korea of manufacturing and distributing supernotes.
  • Democrat
    Meridian, MS
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    McClellan,

    Let me be the first to congratulate you on a professional presentation of your research. These Koreans have gone to in-depth means to achieve a clone-type replica of U.S. notes and the World Bank, or some other high-ranking authority MUST get the evidence and prosecute these thieves. I have years of experience with printing; from off-set and transfer to direct gravure, and using both water-based and solvent-based inks that are cured/dried via thermal and radiation techniques. These criminals have exceeded anything I could ever imagine, and I imagine the U.S. Treasury is concerned, as well they should be. Let's hope this exposure can eliminate the situation and return things back to normal.
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    michaels39301 Wrote: McClellan,

    Let me be the first t congratulate you on a professional presentation of your research. These Koreans have gone to i-depth means to achieve a clone-type replica of U.S. notes and the World Bank, or some other high-ranking authority MUST get the evidence and prosecute these thieves. I have years of experience with printing; from off-set and transfer to direct gravure, and using both water-based and solvent-based inks that are cured/dried via thermal and radiation techniques. These criminals have exceeded anything I could ever imagine, and I imagine the U.S. Treasury is concerned, as well they should be. Let's hope this exposure can eliminate the situation and return things back to normal.
    Now I understand why there are so many billionairs; it must be all fake money! Ha, Ha
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Central, FL
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    michaels,
    Thank you. I merely did a google search on North Korean supernotes. I got that phrase from a TV show on the national geographic channel called the money vault. It was a very interesting show about US currency and even electronic currency called bits. Your experience with printing sounds very interesting.
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    TJ Wrote: I just learned about the idea that N. Korea has counterfeited nearly perfect US 100 dollar bills. Story below.
    -----------------------------------------------
    North Korea, it is often said, is a criminal state. One of the more persistent stories supporting that allegation is that the North Koreans are counterfeiting U.S. currency. Through repetition, the claim has taken on an aura of proven fact. This in turn has been cited as justification for everything from imposing punitive measures against North Korea to suggesting that the nation cannot be trusted as a partner in nuclear negotiations.

    The evidence against North Korea is widely regarded as convincing. “The North Koreans have denied that they are engaged in the distribution and manufacture of counterfeits,” says Daniel Glaser of the U.S. Treasury Department, “but the evidence is overwhelming that they are. There’s no question of North Korea’s involvement.”1 There is no denying that North Korean citizens have been caught passing counterfeit currency in Europe and Asia, and some defectors from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK — the formal name for North Korea) claim to have first-hand knowledge of state-run counterfeiting operations. In Western media reports the case is treated as proven. Yet the closer one examines the matter, the murkier the picture becomes.

    Counterfeit currency attributed to North Korea raises deep concern due to its extremely high quality. Dubbed supernotes, their production process closely matches that of the genuine article, and the engraving is so fine it rivals that of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

    Unlike most of the world’s counterfeit currency, which is printed on offset presses or through digital processes, supernotes are printed on an intaglio press. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing uses Giori intaglio presses for the engraved portions of its bank notes, and an offset press for the background colors. Supernotes use the same technology. An intaglio press operates by applying ink on its plates and then wiping them clean, leaving ink only in the engraved lines. The plate is then pressed against the paper, depositing the ink in ridges. The result is raised printing that ordinary counterfeits can’t duplicate. Supernotes have the same look and feel as U.S. currency.

    North Korea purchased an intaglio press from the Swiss firm Giori in the mid-1970s. This fact is regarded as an indication that the nation has the technology available to print supernotes. Yet there have been significant advances in the field since the time of its purchase. Because certain auxiliary equipment is lacking, the model owned by the DPRK is considered by experts to be incapable of achieving the level of quality seen on supernotes. Not long after purchasing the Giori, North Korea defaulted on its loan after having made just two payments. For that reason, as well as due to U.S. pressure, Giori ceased shipping spare parts to North Korea many years ago, and according to one expert the North Korean printing press now stands idle.

    One striking feature of supernotes is the composition of the paper. Throughout the world, currency is printed on cotton-based paper. But U.S. currency is different, being composed of a mix of 75 percent cotton pulp and 25 percent linen. Supernote counterfeits rely on the same unique combination. To produce secure paper like that used in U.S. currency requires advanced technology and the cost far surpasses that of manufacturing regular paper. The price of even a small plant can exceed $100 million. To remain profitable, a paper plant would have to produce more than four thousand metric tons of such banknote paper a year. But the quantity of supernotes seen in circulation so far has required only a tiny fraction of that total. It would seem, then, that the only option for North Korea would be to procure its paper from an existing plant outside of its borders. This would be no easy matter. The paper used in U.S. currency is produced on a Fourdrinier machine at a plant located in the state of Georgia. This machine uses longer pulp fibers than the short pulp fibers used by the rest of the world relying on cylinder mold methods.

    Former director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Thomas Ferguson comments on the quality of the paper in supernotes. “They’re not simulating the paper features by printing on the paper. They are not using somebody else’s paper or bleaching the ink off of genuine notes. Someone specifically made paper, which is a pretty big commitment.”

    Remarkably, supernote paper even incorporates colored microfibers, a thin security thread marked “USA 100″ in microprint, and a multi-tone watermark. These features can only be produced through the use of sophisticated technology at substantial cost. One expert who conducted a chemical and physical analysis of supernotes discovered that the cotton originated in the southern region of the U.S. — precisely where the Bureau of Engraving and Printing gets its cotton. Southern U.S. cotton is available on the world market, but this would make it traceable to some extent. The expert conducting the analysis is said to have been warned by “interested parties” not to make the results public. The implication was that these parties worked for the U.S. government.

    One of the special features of U.S. currency is the use of optically variable ink (OVI) manufactured by the Swiss firm Société Industrielle et Commerciale de Produits Amon (SICPA). This organization is the sole source for OVI. On the U.S. $100 bill, this color shifting ink is employed on the number in the lower right hand corner. Turning the bill one way, the number appears bronze green. Turned another, it appears black. Supernotes duplicate the same color shift. This particular color combination is reserved for the exclusive use of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing and is manufactured at only one location in the world. A joint venture was established between SICPA and the California-based OCLI laboratory to manufacture this combination of OVI ink. Bronze-green and black OVI is mixed at the SICPA plant in Virginia, which serves only the U.S. market. The rest of the world gets its supply of OVI from SICPA’s main plant in Switzerland.

    North Korea was at one time a client of SICPA. Each nation is assigned a unique color combination. The DPRK’s combination was green and magenta, which Treasury official Daniel Glazer asserts can be manipulated to appear similar to the U.S. combination. Yet a forensic laboratory has found that the security ink used in supernotes is not similar. It matches U.S. currency. Furthermore, it is probable that North Korea has long ago exhausted its limited supply of OVI. SICPA spokeswoman Sarah Van Horn points out, “We ceased all OVI deliveries in early 2001, and later that year all security ink supplies.” Severing trade with North Korea came at the request of U.S. officials, long before the Bush Administration publicly accused North Korea of manufacturing and distributing supernotes.
    Excellent piece, compliments!!!
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    It would appear we gave the NK's a boat load of fake bills as aid at some time. But why?
  • Democrat
    Meridian, MS
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    TJ Wrote: michaels,
    Thank you. I merely did a google search on North Korean supernotes. I got that phrase from a TV show on the national geographic channel called the money vault. It was a very interesting show about US currency and even electronic currency called bits. Your experience with printing sounds very interesting.
    You are most welcome Tony, or is it McClellan, and either way, I was certainly impressed.
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Central, FL
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    michaels39301 Wrote:
    TJ Wrote: michaels,
    Thank you. I merely did a google search on North Korean supernotes. I got that phrase from a TV show on the national geographic channel called the money vault. It was a very interesting show about US currency and even electronic currency called bits. Your experience with printing sounds very interesting.
    You are most welcome Tony, or is it McClellan, and either way, I was certainly impressed.
    My first name is McClellan but I've aways gone by Tony as my middle name is Anthony. I'm not sure why I signed up as McClellan.... actually I do. It's the auto fill element on my computer. But anyway, I wanted to explain the reason for the change. I also changed my location to Central Ohio in case I really upset any of the new members. I went to messages to send a messages to explain but I realized I don't know how to send a message. I know how to reply but not how to compose/send. I hope everyone has a great day.
  • Democrat
    Meridian, MS
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    Tony, simply click on a member's name or ID and on the page that opens, there will either be a photo or a blank photo, but UNDER that photo there will be an option to send a message. Just click on it and you are in business. Then over time, you will have an option to view all the messages you have sent or received, and delete them if you so desire. You will know you have a message by looking at the top of your home page. I will send you one now, just look at the top of the opening age for all posts, and you will see the word "Messages" and how many you have received that are still unread.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Tony --

    It is a good article, but it is customary in this website to note the source and give credit to those that did the original research, in this case:

    Gregory Elich, Global Research, May 7, 2008: North Korea and the Supernote Enigma

    From the Democratic Hub forum rules above:

    Do Not Violate Civil Laws

    The main two things to watch out for are copyright law and defamation. Do not post entire articles in our forums as the author owns the work and it is copyright violation. Post no more than 2-3 paragraphs and include a link to the article you wish to cite or discuss instead. Also, be aware that you could be liable for what you write on the Internet and be the target of defamation lawsuits. So avoid non credible or unfounded attacks or harassment of people, businesses or groups.
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Central, FL
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    Thank you michaels, I will check it all out.
    Thank you schmidt. I didn't realize this was serious. I surely don't want to go to jail for a temporary posting. I seriously thought it was more likely to be read if it was right there.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Tony --

    The criteria vary by website/article. The Global Research website states:

    "We encourage our readers to cross-post and/or forward Global Research articles, post them on Facebook and Twitter, submit them to internet discussion groups, send them to your friends on your e-mail lists, etc. This will help Global Research in its endeavors."

    So Global Research freely wants their material distributed, but I always like to give them credit anyway.

    The Washington Post, on the other hand, has this note on the bottom of all their articles:

    "Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed."

    So I'm careful to credit and paraphrase most WP articles that I cite, but will happily quote paragraphs from other sources that are more free with their information.
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    If we look at who has the tech to pull this off then who is the leading suspect? I focused on the paper as you and I would have to scrub bills (ones, of course) to get the right paper. And analysis showed no sign of paper reuse.