20,000 counterfeit bags confiscated in raid
Seoul Main Customs Agency officials inspect 6,000 samples of counterfeit Louis Vuitton merchandise Wednesday. A cartel was busted in July after a sting operation by the office. All confiscated items will be incinerated.
By Kwaak Je-yup
A sophisticated and systematized luxury goods imitation cartel has been caught in Seoul, the Seoul Main Customs Agency announced Wednesday.
It is the first discovery of a vertically-integrated system of this scale in Korea, handling production in addition to storage and sales.
"Due to the relatively high production costs (in Korea), most counterfeit goods had been smuggled from China and are sold here afterwards," said Lee Dong-hyeon, spokesperson of the Seoul Main Customs Agency. "Conversely, in this case, the Louis Vuitton bags were made here to be exported."
Stricter inspections at the border and increasing costs for Chinese fake goods are cited as the main reasons for establishing the facilities here, according to the customs office press release.
Despite the high-profile arrest, it is yet to be seen, however, if this movement towards Korean production constitutes a trend.
Caught during the office's sting operation in late July, the trade was solely dedicated to Louis Vuitton, widely believed to be the No. 1 choice for brand-conscious East Asian consumers.
A male suspect identified as "A," 51, was arrested while other four unnamed collaborators were charged without arrest.
The counterfeiters specifically targeted Japanese consumers. The vast majority of 20,000-plus confiscated bags were designed with the chessboard pattern particularly popular in that nation, dubbed "Damier" by the French luxury house.
At the time of arrest, already more than 14,000 products were either exported illegally to Japan or sold to shops in Dongdaemun and Itaewon, areas frequented by tourists.
Each bag was sold for around 200,000 won.
All facilities were located within a 1 km radius of A's residence in central Seoul, yet they were spread out to avoid discovery.
To date, inspectors have located a storage building for raw materials, a semi-finished goods workshop, two finished goods factories, a storeroom for finished goods and a separate space for those for-export products.
After a sale, the organization sent the fake merchandise via outside contractors locally known as "quick service," a popular anonymous delivery method by motorcyclists.
Counterfeit goods trade has been a part of the country's markets, despite continued government efforts to crack it down, but the rising level of its organization worries the officials.
"Domestic manufacture and illegal export of counterfeit goods are criminal acts that damage the image of not only the nation but the goods legally made in Korea," said a spokesperson in the press release. "Inspection efforts will be stepped up even further, given the incentive for imitation goods production in the country."
The Seoul spokesperson of Louis Vuitton declined to comment on the announcement.
'짝퉁' 명품백을 제조에서 유통, 판매까지 해온 일당 5명이 세관에 의해 적발됬다.
루이비통을 전문으로 만들어온 이들은 제품이 워낙 고품질이라 전문가도 감별하기 어려웠다.
관세청 서울본부세관은 21일 가짜 루이비통 가방 2만점등을 생산 및 밀수출한 이들 중 주범 A(남, 51)을 구속하고 나머지 4명을 불구속 입건했다고 밝혔다.
세관 관계자는 "짝퉁물품은 보통 해외에서 밀수입하여 국내로 판매하여 왔는데 수입통관시 짝퉁에 대한 세관 단속이 강화되고 중국내 인건비 상승 등으로 짝퉁 수입가격이 올라 수입이 어렵게 되었다"며 "국내에서 한류 열품으로 일본인 등의 한국 방문이 크게 증가하여 짝퉁 수요가 늘어남에 따라 국내에서 짝퉁을 생산한 것으로 보고 있다"고 말했다.
압수된 물품들은 전부 소각한다.