1254303193 8000322615 20091001 265x300 Counterfeit Whiskey Detectors in Korean Cell PhonesIf you keep up with mobile phone technology, it’s pretty well-known that South Korea is high on the list of the world’s most advanced nations.

There is massive competition between the three carriers: SK Telecom, KTF, and LG Telecom.  That keeps the industry innovating to leech customers away from the competition. That benefits the consumer. You can get a signal just about anywhere including when you’re up on the ski slopes or underground in the subway. The phones are sturdy, functional and, in many cases, multilingual.  Plus, your average Korean citizen is very used to using the extended features from text messages to banking.

If you’ve been to or lived in Korea for any amount of time, you know that it’s a drinking culture.  It’s expected that when your boss says “let’s go have dinner and drinks” to the staff that they go and that they drink, to excess (if the boss drinks to excess).  Like many vibrant economies, there is also a love of status objects, including expensive brand name liquors.

That means you’ve got a group of people more than willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money for their expensive booze.  In response, there is an industry of fake brand name liquor that has developed to rip these people off.

The problem for the South Korean government is that people taken in by this fraud aren’t paying the taxes levied on genuine brand name bottles of booze. To solve this problem, the South Korean National Tax Service is adding another level of functionality to the Korean cell phone.  They’re going to have detectors that can verify whether a bottle of expensive whiskey is legit or not. The detectors are scheduled to be put into use this month. I think it’s pretty clever to craft the solution around a piece of technology that everyone in Korea uses.

This is how the detectors will solve this problem:

The plan is to attach RFID chips that contain production history data to whiskey bottles, so that anyone with a cellphone can use a plug-in scanner (which is to be stored in major bars and pubs) to see if the costly bottle of liquor he is about to order is real or bogus. National Tax Services is rolling this out to make sure they are collecting liquor taxes to the fullest. They are starting with 2 million bottles of whiskey.

Now I’m not sure who exactly gets busted here.  I’m assuming it’s got to be the establishment or the liquor distributor.  If someone knows what’s supposed to happen when a fake bottle is detected, let me know.

News release from the Hankyoreh (한겨레) website (in Korean): “너 가짜양주지?” 휴대전화로 판별