Fri, Aug 24, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Experience was key to unlocking safe

‘ENTRY-LEVEL’:With 39 years of experience, Wu Kun-hao opened a century-old safe in 50 minutes after several failed attempts by a Japanese safecracker

By Chang Yi-chen and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Locksmith Wu Kun-hao opens a century-old safe in Yilan County’s Dongshan Township on Wednesday that had defied the efforts of a Japanese safecracker.

Photo: Chang Yi-chen, Taipei Times

Wu Kun-hao (吳坤浩), a 68-year-old locksmith, on Wednesday opened a century-old safe that had stubbornly defied the efforts of a Japanese safecracker.

The safe was found four years ago among other artifacts from the Japanese-era office in Yilan County’s Dongshan Township (冬山) when the present-day township office moved out of the building.

The safe dates to Japan’s Taisho Period (1912-1926) and the katakana script on the dial is no longer legible, Dongshan Mayor Hsieh Tsan-hui (謝燦輝) said.

The Japanese safecracker was hired by a Japanese television station after it saw a report in the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) about the safe and Hsieh’s offer of a reward for anyone who could open it.

He tried for three days, but could not open it.

Wu went to the office on Wednesday and opened all three locks on the safe — the main lock at the bottom, the dial lock and the inner panel lock — in about 50 minutes.

“I have been in the safecracking trade for 39 years,” Wu said, adding that he has opened many Japanese-colonial era safes and this one was “an entry-level safe.”

Wu said the Japanese safecracker was about 40 years old.

“I was devoted to this trade when he was a toddler,” Wu said, adding that the Japanese safecracker should not feel discouraged, as he has years of experience on him.

Working out of his own store in Dihua Street in Taipei, Wu said he had also helped open a Japanese-made safe at the Legislative Yuan.

Many safes from that period used a set of 25 Japanese kana as the basis for three locks, Wu said.

While the locks can have up to 15,000 possible combinations, they are not difficult to crack, Wu said.

Experienced locksmiths could open them easily with practice, he said.

While the Japanese safecracker was stumped by the Dongshan safe, he reported opening safes in Chiayi and Hsinchu.

The Dongshan safe contained land deeds and a bank book dating to the Japanese colonial era, as well as Republic of China government bonds.

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