The Korea Herald


Latest case of Lee Ufan forgery allegedly involves politician's spouse

By Park Yuna

Published : March 12, 2024 - 16:29

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Lee Ufan speaks to the press about his stance on a forgery case in 2016 in Seoul (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald) Lee Ufan speaks to the press about his stance on a forgery case in 2016 in Seoul (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

A new case of allegedly forged artwork credited to Korean artist Lee Ufan is reported to involve a Korean politician’s wife.

Kukmin Ilbo, a local newspaper, exclusively reported late Monday that the prosecution recently began investigating a case in which the spouse of a Korean politician seeking to run in the April general election is alleged to have traded fake paintings last year.

The woman allegedly traded forged Lee Ufan paintings to raise election campaign funds for her husband.

The woman under investigation was accused by an acquaintance of not returning the 1.68 billion won ($1.3 million) she borrowed from January to September 2023. The woman is said to have offered the acquaintance three paintings by Lee to sell, promising their sale value would repay her debt.

The accuser, suspicious of the authenticity of the paintings, asked the Galleries Association of Korea to appraise one of the paintings and was informed that the painting from 2013 was a forgery. The suspect, however, reportedly had an appraisal by another Seoul-based company that authenticated the painting, according to the news report.

“There has been a rumor about a forgery case spreading in the art circle. I wonder how it will affect the art scene in Korea this time,” a gallerist based in Gangnam, southern Seoul, told The Korea Herald.

“The art appraisal system in Korea is not systematized, which is something that needs to be improved urgently,” another gallerist in Samcheong-dong, northern Seoul, told The Korea Herald.

In 2016, Lee Ufan was at the center of attention after art forgers surnamed Hyun and Lee were found guilty of forging artworks credited to the artist. They were sentenced to four and seven years in jail, respectively. Hyun, who was an art dealer based in Seoul, admitted to counterfeiting the works.

Lee Ufan, however, claimed the works were authentic, saying, “A person’s flow and rhythm are like one’s fingerprints, which cannot be imitated. They (the 13 works) are undoubtedly mine.”

An internationally acclaimed artist, Lee is one of the leading art masters based in South Korea and Japan. He led the avant-garde Mono-ha art movement in Japan from the 1960s to the 1970s.