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South Korean Lawmakers Back Charges of Dollar Counterfeiting by North

At least two lawmakers from South Korea's main opposition party are backing U.S. accusations that North Korea has recently counterfeited dollars. In a parliamentary hearing, they presented what they described as recently obtained evidence, and challenged the South Korean government to take stronger action on the issue.

Conservative South Korean lawmaker Kim Moon-soo held up a $100 bill on the floor of Seoul's National Assembly Thursday - saying it is the latest evidence of counterfeiting by Pyongyang.

Kim says human rights activists bought the fake note in the Chinese city of Dandong, from an employee of a North Korean trading firm. He says other fake bills can be bought for as little as $50.

Another lawmaker, Kim Jae-won, released a satellite photo of Pyongyang Thursday, pointing out a building where he alleges the North Korean government does much of its counterfeit dollar printing. Kim says the building and its purpose are known to a number of high-ranking North Korean defectors who have given him testimony.

U.S. Treasury officials visited Seoul last month to share evidence that Washington says shows Pyongyang has been engaged in counterfeiting.

However, South Korean intelligence officials told lawmakers early this month they have no evidence of North Korean counterfeiting activities after 1998.

The South Korean government of President Roh Moo-hyun is reluctant to irritate the North. Administration officials say the long-term benefits of reconciliation and increased contact between the Koreas outweigh the need to publicly confront Pyongyang on issues such as counterfeiting or human rights.

However, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan told lawmakers Wednesday Seoul has not been completely silent on the issue.

Lee says the government has formally expressed its concerns over the issue to Pyongyang.

South Korean officials say they continue to work closely with the United States on the matter.

Last year, Washington imposed financial sanctions against North Korean companies over allegations of counterfeiting and other illegal activity. North Korea says it will not return to multinational talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs until Washington drops those sanctions.

U.S. officials say the counterfeiting issue is separate from the nuclear dispute. Washington's ambassador to Seoul says North Korea should produce concrete evidence it has stopped counterfeiting - such as the plates from its printing presses.