South Korea

New law to root out counterfeit artwork in Korea

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced Thursday that it will legislate a new law regarding artwork distribution in an effort to root out the distribution of counterfeit works, recover public trust in Korea’s art market, and establish a healthy trading platform for creative crafts. The law will be implemented in August 2017.

The new law will divide art distribution into three major categories: art galleries, which will be subject to a registration system; art auctions, to a permit system; and other sales of artworks, to a reporting system.

Currently, art galleries or art auction houses can operate with only a business license, and without official registration or approval, which led to criticism that they lacked transparency and engaged in unfair practices in their art distribution process.

With the new law, however, art galleries will have to submit plans to prevent counterfeit artworks as well as a list of all of their affiliate artists. Auction firms will also have to provide counterfeit prevention measures, while possessing certain qualifications including at least 200 million won in capital, an official auctioneer, and an auction house.

Furthermore, artwork distributors will be obliged to maintain records for each of their artworks, and issue an official warranty when they’re sold. Failure to do so will also be result in fines and cancelled business licenses.

The law will implement stronger punishment for counterfeit crimes as well, by stipulating that these types of crimes be punishable by up to five years in prison or 50 million won in fines. The ministry will also consider the potential implementation of special judicial police specific to artwork fraud.

Meanwhile, the ministry is to establish a national body for artwork authentication, which will function as the official agency responsible for developing new authentication technology and professionals in related fields.

“The institute will be operated not as a government agency but as a public one, and will help improve Korea’s art authentication technology, as well as aiding with crimes, investigations, and trials related to counterfeit artwork,” said Jung. “It will be staffed by professional researchers and appraisers.”

The full details of the law are to be revealed in the first half of 2017.

Another Chun Kyung-ja painting suspected of forgery

A series of travel sketches of the late artist Chun Kyung-ja, submitted for Seoul Auction’s summer auction on June 29, was suspected of being counterfeit and pulled from the auction soon after. An art critic claimed that the sketches pieced together artworks in Chun’s catalogue published in 1995 titled “CHUN, KYUNG JA.”

Chun’s “Travel sketches” was composed of 16 drawings with an autograph letter. The auction explained that Chun gifted the sketches to an acquaintance named Mr. Park in 1983, in celebration of his 50th birthday.

An anonymous art critic told Yonhap News Sunday that the sketches are similar to multiple paintings and sketches in the catalogue, mainly created during Chun’s travels.

Lee Ufan declares all 13 works authentic

In a surprising turn of events, renowned modern artist Lee Ufan declared all 13 suspected forgeries of his works to be authentic, contrary to the conclusion of a yearlong investigation by police experts.

Lee’s verdict that the 13 pieces confiscated by the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency are real comes after two examinations over Monday and Wednesday and contradicts the conclusion drawn by police that the paintings are forgeries after appraisals were made by the National Forensic Service and civilian art experts.

On Wednesday, Lee appeared before Seoul police for the second time this week, carrying two catalogues of his art and a magnifying glass. About four hours later, he emerged from the station declaring that the works were without a doubt authentic.

“I concluded that there is not anything strange with a single piece,” said Lee. “The use of breath, rhythm and colour were all my techniques.”

Lee Ufan to take time to examine counterfeits of his paintings

Artist Lee Ufan, whose abstract paintings have become the subjects of art forgeries, took a look at the paintings the National Forensic Service identified as counterfeits for the first time Monday, but said he has yet to conclude if they are fakes. “I will come back (to the police) the day after tomorrow. There are things I have to check again,” said Lee as he left the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency after having examined the paintings.