Illegal drug suspect charged with forgery for AI-generated reference letter

The reference letter was allegedly forged by the suspect's friend using ChatGPT.

No Kyung-min

No Kyung-min

The Korea Herald


Thematic illustration. PHOTO: THE KOREA HERALD

February 8, 2024

SEOUL – An individual charged with illegal drug possession and use is now facing a another trial for submitting what he claimed was a character reference letter from the head of a local sports association, but which was allegedly forged by the suspect’s friend using ChatGPT, arguing for leniency from the court, state prosecutors said Thursday.

He was subsequently indicted for document forgery.

The reference letter, submitted to the prosecution during the man’s first trial on drug charges last year, contained sentences that were outlandish and lacking context, saying for example that the man, surnamed Kim, had “fought alone in the name of justice during the party’s unfortunate incident,” and that, due to his actions, “all citizens of the city, regardless of age or gender, were able to improve their health and social networks.” While portraying Kim’s act as serving the public interest, the reference letter lacked specific details about Kim’s activities.

At the time, Kim had been standing trial, detained at the Seoul Detention Center, for illegal possession and use of methamphetamine. Last month, he was sentenced to one year and three months in the first-trial ruling.

The prosecution said its further investigations revealed that a friend of Kim’s had typed in keywords into the artificial intelligence tool at Kim’s request to make the character reference letter. It turned out that Kim had no affiliation with the sports association mentioned or its head, whose name was written as the author of the letter.

In response to this case, the prosecution expressed its commitment to strictly addressing any criminal use of generative AI technology for forgery.

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