Money laundering: South Korean washes currency over coronavirus fears, destroys them instead

Above, an employee checks newly printed South Korean currency in Gyeongsan, southeast of Seoul, in this May 29, 2015 file photo. (AFP)
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Updated 31 July 2020

Money laundering: South Korean washes currency over coronavirus fears, destroys them instead

  • Amount in question was condolence money given by relatives, friends

SEOUL, South Korea: Money laundering is not a good idea, as a South Korean found out when he or she put banknotes in a washing machine to remove possible traces of the coronavirus.
Officials say the loss was considerable.
The person living in Ansan city, near Seoul, placed an unspecified amount of 50,000-won ($42) bills in a washing machine earlier this year. Some of the money was seriously damaged, and the person reached out to the Bank of Korea to find whether it could be exchanged for new bills.
Under bank rules on the exchange of damaged, mutilated and contaminated banknotes, the person was provided with the new currency totaling about 23 million won ($19,320), the Bank of Korea said in a statement.
Bank official Seo Jee Woun said the number of 50,000-won bills the bank exchanged at half value was 507. She said the bank doesn’t count the number of bills that it cannot exchange because damage is too big.
She said bank officials didn’t know exactly how much money the person tried to wash.
She said the loss would still be “considerable.”
How much the central bank should exchange in a situation like this depends on how seriously banknotes are damaged. The bank can provide the new currency at face value if damage is minimal, but at half value or not at all if damage is significant.
The amount in question was condolence money given by relatives, friends and others during a family funeral, according to the bank.
The person has been only identified by family name Eom. Bank officials gave no further personal information citing privacy law.
How about microwaving money?
According to the bank, another person, surnamed Kim, put bills in a microwave over similar coronavirus concerns earlier this year. The bank exchanged Kim’s damaged money with the new currency worth 5.2 million won ($4,370). Seo said Kim’s losses were not big.
South Korea’s central bank has advised the public to avoid putting banknotes in a microwave saying its disinfection effect is unclear. Anti-virus guidelines in South Korea don’t include sterilizing money in a washing machine either.


Wuhan film captures horror and humanity at coronavirus ground zero

Updated 15 September 2020

Wuhan film captures horror and humanity at coronavirus ground zero

  • “76 Days” is premiering at the Toronto film festival
  • It is the first major documentary from the disease’s original epicenter to hit theaters

LOS ANGELES: Back in February, when few Americans were aware of a distant and oddly named phenomenon called coronavirus, two Chinese filmmakers strapped on hazmat suits and embedded themselves in Wuhan’s overrun hospitals.
There, they captured harrowing footage of terrified citizens hammering on hospital doors, medics collapsing from exhaustion, and relatives begging in vain to say goodbye to infected loved ones.
Now, those images have been edited together by New York-based director Hao Wu (“People’s Republic of Desire“).
Premiering at the Toronto film festival Monday, “76 Days” — named for the duration of the central Chinese city’s draconian lockdown — is the first major documentary from the disease’s original epicenter to hit theaters.
Shot in a claustrophobic, cinema verite style — without voice-over or direct-to-camera interviews — the film relies on the intimacy of the footage of doctors and patients grappling with a terrifying new reality.
Wu first contacted the two filmmakers, one of whom is anonymous for his own safety, after witnessing China’s early lockdown first-hand during a family visit for Chinese New Year.
The footage they sent him revealed how, in the chaos of the disease’s early weeks, they were able to get remarkable access — but at considerable personal risk and suffering.
“It was a horrible, horrible shooting experience for them,” Wu told AFP. “They were fainting, it was really warm. A few times [filmmaker Weixi Chen] wanted to throw up inside [his] goggles, but he couldn’t because once you throw up, once you remove your PPE, you have to get out, you could not come back again.”
“It was like shooting in a war zone,” he added.
Wu also had a personal motivation for pursuing the project.
His grandfather died from cancer soon after the outbreak, unable to find a hospital bed as resources strained under the weight of Covid-19.
“In the beginning I was angry with the Chinese government — I really wanted to find out who’s at fault, what caused this,” said Wu.
But once the pandemic spread — with exponentially greater tragedy — to other countries like the US, the desire to place blame was replaced by a desire to document how “as human beings live through this, how we can share this experience.”


Ironically, despite Beijing’s tight controls on information, access was in some ways easier in China. Privacy and litigation concerns proved far more of a barrier to filming in New York hospitals, Wu found.
Wuhan hospitals desperately lacking personal protective equipment initially welcomed coverage that could boost donations and volunteers, he added.
The film eschews politics and blame to focus on personal stories of tragedy and bravery, hope and despair, which repeated around the world after emerging in China.
Medics tenderly hold the hands of patients locked away from their families, and are distinguishable to viewers only by the colorful doodles they scrawl upon each other’s head-to-toe hazmat suits.
But it remains unclear whether the movie will ever be seen in China, where news about the pandemic has been tightly controlled since day one — leading to many in the West, including US President Donald Trump, accusing Beijing of a vast cover-up.
“I would love to show it in China, because I feel that for the entire country with Covid, it has been such a scar on the nation’s psyche,” said Wu, who hopes it could help his ancestral home to mourn its losses.
“Obviously right now most Chinese feel proud the country has been able to control it. But it is a trauma.”