Hundreds of millions of counterfeit hundred dollar bills, part 3

January 12, 2012 by Joshua
in NorthKorea

At the end of my first post on this topic I speculated on the motivations of counterfeiters. The Vanity Fair article I mentioned in part 2 reminded me of other motivations that make the behavior more understandable to me.

The North Korean bureaucracy that implements the counterfeiting, drug smuggling, and so on, according to the article, has many levels. Someone high up — as high as Kim Jong Il, according to the article — could decide to do something and remain insulated from how it happens or the consequences to anyone but himself. Meanwhile, people who implement it may risk their lives if they don’t comply.

But when I asked Liu why he had not made a deal with the prosecutors, using his inside knowledge to secure a lighter sentence, his reply revealed a very different emotion: simple terror. “The North Koreans are my friends,” he said. “I have a good connection with them. I can make money easily with them. But you can’t betray them.”

Sometimes I forget how large organizations can hurt many people while everyone feels they had no other choice (at low levels) or could plausibly deny responsibility (at high levels). For that matter, people at high levels can do more than deny wrongdoing, they can claim noble intentions.

EDIT:  misperceptions of North Korea in the media as described in this post, leading to misunderstanding how we understand and commincate with North Koreans, led me to write my ebook Understanding North Korea: Demystifying the World’s Most Misunderstood Country. I wrote the book to help increase understanding, communication, and freedom.

Joshua Spodek Understanding North Korea cover

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