Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Round-up of important news from major Korean dailies and from international media today
Samsung Electronics wins ‘Triple Standard’ by Carbon Trust
Samsung Electronics has received the semiconductor industry’s first “Triple Standard” for carbon, water and waste by Carbon Trust, the company said on June 3. Samsung was awarded this certification by reducing the amount of carbon emissions, water use, and waste discharge over the past three years at five operations --Giheung, Hwaseong, Pyeongtaek, Onyang and Cheonan factories in Korea and four global manufacturing sites in U.S. and China (Austin, Suzhou, Tianjin and Xi’an). This is a huge feat, considering that it is extremely challenging for semiconductor manufacturing companies to meet all three qualifications at once. “For decades, Samsung has been striving to incorporate environmental sustainability into every aspect of the semiconductor manufacturing process,” said Jang Seong-dai, senior vice president and head of DS Corporate Sustainability Management Office at Samsung Electronics. Jang added, “We’ll continue to pursue more environmentally sustainable policies across the entire production and supply chain.”
Guri City Mayor Ahn wins the "Excellent Award" at 2021 Governance Local Political Awards
Guri City, Gyeonggi Province, announced on June 3 that Mayor Ahn Seung-nam won the Excellence Award in the category of expanding residents' living benefits at the "2021 3rd Governance Local Political Awards" held at the Seoul Women's Plaza International Conference Hall in Daebang-dong, Seoul on June 2. Guri City Mayor Ahn's award was highly praised for building a local community after considering "citizens' happiness" as the top priority in all processes of municipal administration with the vision of "Guri, Citizens' Happiness Metropolitan City." In particular, Mayor Ahn sought for civil happiness by revitalizing the local economy and creating jobs, laying the institutional foundation for creating a "special city for citizens' happiness" such as the enactment of an ordinance to promote citizens' happiness.
Will Korea have another Harvard-educated political leader after Syngman Rhee?
Will South Korea have another President with an advanced educational background in the United States, Korea’s most-trusted friend in the world? Korea has had none since the late President Syngman Rhee (in office from July 1945 to April 1960). Now 36-year-old Lee Jun-seok, who is running for the leadership of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), is from Harvard for the first time in the recent history of political elections in Korea—after the late first-term President Syngman Rhee of the Republic of Korea. Why ask the educational background of the political candidates of the political leaders in Korea? It may not be so much the name of the university as the country of education of the candidate. Many people in Korea, especially the established generation, tend to favor those who have had their advanced training in the United States who is Korea’s most trusted ally in the world.
Blinken Pledges to Work for Korean Americans' Reunions with Families in N. Korea
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pledged to make efforts to realize reunions of Korean Americans with their families in North Korea. Blinken made the remark on Monday in a hearing before a House Appropriations subcommittee. The secretary said that it is just "heart wrenching," knowing that people have been not only separated, but don't even know the fate of their loved ones. He then pledged that the U.S. will absolutely work on the issue, including with its South Korean partners, to make sure that the interests of Korean Americans who have been separated from their families are reflected in the efforts that are made. Blinken, however, added that it was not clear how North Korea may react, saying it is "very challenging" and the U.S. doesn't know what kind of engagement it's going to get from the North.
White House: No Plans for Trilateral Summit with S. Korea, Japan But Anything Possible
The White House said on Monday that currently there are no plans for a trilateral summit among the U.S., South Korea and Japan, but such a meeting could be possible. U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan issued the position during a press briefing when asked about the possibility of such a meeting on the sidelines of the Group of Seven(G7) summit set for this week in Britain. Sullivan said that the U.S. currently doesn't have a trilateral scheduled, but there's the possibility for virtually anything in these small spaces where ten or 12 leaders get together in Cornwall. A trilateral summit among the three nations, if realized, would be the first since September 2017. The three-day G7 summit is set to begin Friday. South Korea is not a G7 member but has been invited to this year's meeting as a guest, along with Australia, India and South Africa.
KOSPI Hits All-Time High
South Korea's benchmark stock index has hit an all-time high. The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index(KOSPI) gained 12-point-04 points, or point-37 percent on Monday, ending the day at three-thousand-252-point-12. The previous all-time high was set on May 10, 2021, when it ended at three-thousand-249-point-30 points. Meanwhile, the tech-heavy KOSDAQ dropped, losing one-point-72 points, or zero-point-17 percent, to close at 985-point-86. On the foreign exchange, the local currency strengthened three-point-six won against the dollar, ending the session at one-thousand-112 point-9 won.
New cases under 500 over fewer tests; inoculation drive to pick up pace
South Korea's daily new virus cases fell back to under 500 on Monday due to fewer tests over the weekend as health authorities push to ramp up the vaccination drive on the back of an increased vaccine supply. The country reported 485 more COVID-19 cases, including 454 local infections, raising the total caseload to 144,637, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. Monday's figure was sharply down from 556 cases on Sunday. But daily cases usually rise on Wednesday and Friday as more people get tested. Daily caseloads have been going through some ups and downs between the 400s and 700s in recent months with no significant signs of a letup as cluster infections continue to be reported nationwide. The daily average number of virus cases in the past week was 595.1, up from 583.7 reported in the last week of May. The country added one more death, raising the death toll to 1,974. The fatality rate was 1.36 percent.
Court rejects damages suit against Japanese firms by Korean forced labor victims
A local court on Monday dismissed a damages suit launched by 85 South Korean victims of wartime forced labor in Japan and their families against 16 Japanese companies, saying the plaintiffs don't have litigation rights.The Seoul Central District Court said South Korean wartime forced laborers cannot claim individual legal rights to damages from Japan, while deciding to reject their collective suit.The 85 forced labor victims and their families started their damages suit against 16 Japanese companies, including Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., Nissan Chemical Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., in 2015. This case is the largest among many similar lawsuits filed by South Korean victims of wartime forced labor in Japan. At first, 17 Japanese firms were sued but the plaintiffs dropped their suit against one of them.
N.K. leader holds meeting with top officials to discuss economic policies in second half
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held a consultative meeting with top officials to discuss economic policies for the second half of the year ahead of a key party meeting, state media said Tuesday. Kim urged the officials to make "devoted efforts" to improve the economy at the meeting Monday with senior officials of the Central Committee and provincial committees of the ruling Workers' Party, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). "The consultative meeting, on the threshold of the plenary meeting of the Party Central Committee, had an intensive check on the detailed situation of every field in regard to the implementation of main policies for the latter half of this year, and discussed the practical issues to cope with the situation," the KCNA said. Kim also laid out a plan to bring about a "tangible change in stabilizing the state economic work and people's living with the plenary meeting of the Party Central Committee as an occasion," it added.
The Korea Herald (http://www.koreaherald.com)
Seoul court dismisses lawsuit on Japan’s wartime forced labor
A Seoul court ruled Monday that victims of Japan’s wartime forced labor cannot sue Japanese companies. The victims said they would appeal the ruling. The Seoul Central District Court rejected a lawsuit filed by 85 plaintiffs, comprising forced laborers and bereaved family members of forced laborers, against 16 Japanese companies including Nippon Steel, Nissan Chemical and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Rejection means the court made its decision without hearing the case because it deemed the suit not to have met the requirements for litigation. This can be seen as a defeat for the plaintiffs. “We cannot say that individual claims are extinguished or abandoned under the Korea-Japan Settlements Claims Agreement, but we ruled that they cannot be exercised through lawsuits,” the judge said, explaining the decision. The two nations signed the settlement agreement in 1965 after signing the Treaty on Basic Relations. Under the agreement, Japan agreed to provide South Korea with $300 million in grants and up to $200 million in loans.
State developer to slash 20% jobs over land purchase scandal
Two thousand employees at South Korea’s troubled state housing developer will be out of jobs as a result of a reform triggered by a massive land speculation scandal, the government said Monday. The Korea Land and Housing Corp. will streamline its organizational structure, cutting 20 percent of the company’s workforce, to focus on its key functions -- housing welfare and home supply. Other noncore administrative functions will be abolished or transferred to other bodies such as the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. The reform measures came after an interagency task force in March launched an investigation into allegations that dozens of LH employees had bought land in two cities in Gyeonggi Province shortly before the government announced a massive development project there. Some 151 former and incumbent officials of the public corporation and their relatives have been suspected of using inside information to purchase land, according to the team’s interim investigation results released last week.
Korea will see some return to normal in summer: minister
This summer could feel more normal now that more South Koreans can get COVID-19 vaccines, Minister of Health and Welfare Kwon Deok-cheol said Monday. The minister told a news briefing that based on the current trajectory, the goal of vaccinating 14 million adults with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this month could be met “even sooner than previously thought.” “This means that by that point, more than a quarter of Koreans will have been vaccinated,” he said.
“The vaccines will help bring something that looks more like normal this summer,” he said. “From next month social distancing will be waived for people after their first COVID-19 shots in certain settings. They also won’t be required to wear face masks outside,” he said. He added that in addition to the vaccine-related restriction waivers, there will be further easing of the public health guidelines. “July will be a month we edge back toward normal,” he said. He said that between July and September vaccine eligibility will open up to people in their 50s and younger.
The Korea Times (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr)
China's Confucius Institutes facing calls to leave Korea A group of nine middle-aged activists gathered in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul on June 2, accusing the Chinese government of its alleged use of the state-funded Confucius Institutes (CIs) to infiltrate Korean universities and high schools to disseminate the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda. Calling the institute China's global network established for espionage and brainwashing locals to support China's policies, the activists urged China to close the institutes on their own, before they are forced to leave. "Despite its title, there're no Confucian ideas whatsoever in the institute," Han Min-ho, founder and president of the Citizens for Unveiling Confucius Institutes (CUCI), said in a prepared statement. "What's in there is the ghost of Mao Zedong. Mao haunts there, trying to tinge young Koreans with red." Han teamed up with several like-minded people last year to launch the cause-driven civic group CUCI and has since put pressure on the Korean government and politicians to collaborate with universities to close the CIs which officially aim to "promote Chinese language and culture."
Seoul pushes for reviving inter-Korean tour programs
The government is re-igniting its drive for inter-Korean tourism projects as part of efforts to improve ties with North Korea, but is not expected to achieve its desired result, according to Pyongyang watchers, Monday. Unification Minister Lee In-young met with Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, June 1, and reiterated his commitment to resuming a long-suspended tourism project at North Korea's Mount Geumgang. Hyundai began the tour program to the scenic mountain in 1998, but it was halted in 2008 when a South Korean tourist was killed by a North Korean border guard. In addition, the minister also held a meeting, Friday, with Lee Joong-myung, chairman of Ananti, which used to run a golf course at the mountain resort, and discussed the two Koreas co-hosting a world golf championship in the North in 2025. The minister is scheduled to meet with Ahn Young-bae, the president of the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), Wednesday, to discuss resuming inter-Korean cooperation in tourism, according to the unification ministry. The KTO was one of the organizations that oversaw tourism projects to North Korea, as well as running a duty free store there.
G7 to test Korea's balancing act between US, China
Seoul's balancing act between Washington and Beijing will face another tricky test at the upcoming G7 summit as it will likely be a meeting where world leaders will facilitate an initiative to contain China's Belt and Road initiative (BRI), according to experts, Monday. Korea, along with India and Australia, have been invited as a guest country to the summit slated for June 11 to 13. The South has been exercising a balancing act between the U.S. and China amid the two super powers' rivalry, although during the summit between President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden, Seoul showed signs of titling toward Washington. Against this backdrop, the upcoming leaders' meeting in Cornwall, the United Kingdom, will be another opportunity for Seoul to join the Washington-led initiative against Beijing, the experts said. Recent overseas reports ― citing sources familiar with the matter ― said the G7 countries ― Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. ― plan to launch a green alternative to the BRI.
Chosun Ilbo (http://english.chosun.com)
Vaccines for Korean Soldiers Arrive from U.S
A shipment of Johnson & Johnson vaccines for 1.01 million Korean soldiers and civilian military personnel arrived in Seoul on Saturday night by military cargo plane. Robert Rapson, the Chargé d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, watched the arrival on the tarmac. "This is what allies do; this is what makes our alliance and partnership so strong," Rapson later tweeted. U.S. President Joe Biden last month promised the vaccines to his Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in with a view to resuming large-scale field exercises between the two allies here. Ned Price, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, tweeted the previous day, "With these doses we're ensuring the safety and readiness of [Korean] and U.S. forces."
Gov't Handouts Are Blatant Vote-Buying
Out of W19 trillion in higher-than-expected tax revenues during the first quarter of this year, 43 percent was due to one-off gains unrelated to the economic recovery (US$1=W1,115). W3 trillion came from drastically increased real estate taxes, W1 trillion from inheritance taxes, W2 trillion from stock transactions and W2 trillion from late taxes collected from refiners. The on-year increase only looked so high because tax revenues a year ago were so low that any improvement would seem impressive. By law, any surplus in tax revenues must be used to pay off sovereign debt, which stands at a record W104 trillion. But Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling Minjoo Party want to shower it randomly on voters. President Moon Jae-in has called for "additional tax spending," while the ruling party is preparing to ratify another supplementary budget scaled at W30 trillion. So much money has been showered on the public that bubbles are forming in the real estate, stock and cryptocurrency markets, while consumer prices are also showing signs of surging, prompting the Bank of Korea to warn of an impending rate hike. This is no time to be thinking about handing out indiscriminate summer windfalls.
Korea Vaccinates 15% of Population
Only some 7.6 million Koreans or about 15 percent of the population have been vaccinated against coronavirus in the 100 days since inoculations started on Feb. 26. The government hopes to reach 10 million soon as people aged 60-64 become eligible. According to health authorities, 7.59 million people received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccines as of Sunday, but only 2.28 million of them are fully vaccinated. They are mostly elderly people over 65 at 4.8 million. Some 550,000 people over 75 and 1.8 million aged 65-74 are still waiting to get vaccines after booking their appointments. Vaccination of another 3.96 million people aged 60-64 started on Monday, and 3.12 million or 78.8 percent of them have already booked their appointments. They are getting AstraZeneca's vaccine. Vaccination also started for 410,000 soldiers under 30 on Monday, who are being given Pfizer's vaccine, while 890,000 reservists over 30 will get Johnson & Johnson vaccines donated by the U.S. from Thursday. People over 60 who have not booked their appointments yet only have to call or visit vaccination centers or clinics to sign up. They will get leftover vaccines on a priority basis.
HanKyoReh Shinmun (http://english.hani.co.kr)
Moon visits memorial for Air Force sexual assault victim who died by suicide, apologizes to family
South Korean President Moon Jae-in apologized Sunday to the family of an Air Force master sergeant who died in an apparent suicide after being sexually assaulted. During a visit to a memorial for the master sergeant, identified by the surname Lee, Moon shared his condolences and told the family that he was “sorry that the state failed to protect her.” After a Memorial Day ceremony that morning at the Seoul National Cemetery, Moon visited the memorial to Lee at the Korean Armed Forces Capital Hospital in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, and commiserated with her parents, Blue House spokesperson Park Kyung-mi said. “I can only imagine the grief you are experiencing,” he was quoted as telling them.
Pitfalls of S. Korea-US economic cooperation
When the leaders of South Korea and the United States met last month, Moon Jae-in was only the second foreign leader to visit the White House during the Biden administration. It was a signal of how important Asia is to the new president as he tries to extricate the United States from various messes in the Middle East. The summit featured the obligatory affirmation of the bilateral military alliance and the joint determination to denuclearize North Korea. But the real motivation behind the summit was economic. As they rebound from last year’s COVID-19 downturn, the United States and South Korea are increasingly relying on each other to stabilize supply chains and grow their respective economies. After the disastrously inept policies of the Trump administration – the initial row over trade, the blackmailing of Korea over host nation support, the mixed signals on North Korea policy – the smoother relationship between Joe Biden and Moon Jae-in is certainly welcome.
Is British return to Asia resurgence or nostalgia?
A UK Carrier Strike Group led by the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth set sail in late May for a tour of the Indo-Pacific region. Numerous analysts see this as a sign that Britain — which dominated the world in the 19th century as the “empire on which the sun never sets” — is beginning a “return to Asia” in response to China’s rise. But within Europe, many are taking a dim view of the activities by Britain, a country that has found itself in a political and economic corner since Brexit. Skeptics are asking whether a waning Britain even has the wherewithal to turn its attention to the other side of the globe. The media reports and the announcement last April by UK Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace showed the HMS Queen Elizabeth following a grand path that seemed to announce a revival of the British Empire. The tour itself lasts for six months, beginning in Europe and including visits to 40 or so countries. It is stopping for joint military exercises in India
The Dong-A Ilbo (http://english.donga.com/)
US scatters remains of Japanese Class A war criminals
The Tokyo Shimbun reported on Monday the discovery of official U.S. documents, which detail how the American military scattered in the ocean the cremated remains of Hideki Tojo and six other Class A war criminals of Japan executed after their death sentences by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East following World War II. According to the Tokyo Shimbun, the declassified documents of the Eighth Army, discovered by Hiroaki Takazawa, associate professor at Nihon University College of Industrial Technology, at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, contain such details. This is the first time to identify how the remains of Class A war criminals were disposed of through official documents. Class A war criminals are those who plan, initiate, and execute a war of aggression in violation of international treaties, which is considered to be the heaviest war crime.
Kospi sets an all-time high in a month
South Korea’s key stock index Kospi set an all-time high in a month on Monday, which was driven by vaccinations raising expectations for an economic recovery and stable U.S. Treasury yields. Kospi rose 12.04 points, or 0.37 percent on the day, to a record close of 3,252.12, breaking the record (3,249.30) previously set on May 10. Kospi reached 3,264.41 at one point Monday afternoon, inching close to its highest-ever intraday level of 3,266.23 (Jan.11). Individual investors net purchased about 69.5 billion and institutional investors, which turned to buying in the afternoon, bought 118.1 billion won, leading the upturn. On the other hand, foreign investors sold about 187.4 billion won. Kosdaq fell 1.72 points, or 1.72 percent, to close at 985,86. Concerns over early tapering (scaling back bond purchases) by the Federal Reserve were eased as U.S. non-farm payrolls in May released over the weekend were less than the market expectation.
Lee Jun-seok ranked at 4th in poll for presidential hopefuls
The main opposition People Power Party (PPP)’s former Supreme Council member Lee Jun-seok, who is enjoying a lead in the PPP’s leadership race, garnered 3 percent of support in a Gallup Korea poll for presidential hopefuls. In a poll conducted of 1,003 adults from June 1 to June 3, asking, “Who is the most suitable political leader to lead the country,” Lee was ranked 4th (3%) following Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung (24%), former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl (21%), and former Democratic Party (DP) leader Lee Nak-yon (5%). Other candidates including People Party (PP) leader Ahn Cheol-soo won 2 percent of support, and former Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun and independent lawmaker Hong Joon-pyo each earned 1 percent of support. The poll had a confidence level of 95 percent with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Air Force Sexual Assault Victim Never Met Her Lawyer
The Air Force non-commissioned officer (NCO) who fell victim to sexual assault never met her state-appointed lawyer according to the latest investigation. Investigators also confirmed that the military prosecutors assigned to the case did not question the perpetrator and the victim for nearly two months until the victim was found dead. On June 6, a military representative announced, “On March 9, six days after the incident was reported, the state assigned a public military attorney (Air Force lieutenant) for the victim, and on May 14, that attorney was replaced with another state-appointed military lawyer (Air Force lieutenant).” The first lawyer was replaced because he had traveled overseas for his honeymoon and had to be in quarantine for two weeks, the military representative explained. The victim spoke with her first lawyer seven times via telephone calls and text messages to discuss issues including the appointment of a new lawyer.
Air Force NCO’s Family, “There Were More Senior Officers Who Sexually Assaulted the Victim”
The family of the Air Force non-commissioned officer (NCO) who chose to take her life after reporting an incident of sexual assault to her senior officer claimed that the victim had been sexually assaulted at least two more times by another senior officer and filed additional reports against three officers including a senior master sergeant of the 20th Fighter Wing on June 3. At the growing controversy, the Air Force released two of the victim’s senior officers who allegedly tried to cajole the victim into silence from their positions. Military authorities plan to gather what will be a joint investigation team including military prosecutors, military police and the Ministry of National Defense to conduct the investigation, and will operate a military prosecutors investigation review board including civilian prosecutors for the first time. President Moon Jae-in instructed a strict and fair investigation and actions. Attorney Kim Jeong-hwan, the legal representative for the victim’s family met with reporters before filing a report at the Prosecutors’ Office under the defense ministry in Yongsan-gu, Seoul this day and announced, “We are filing additional reports against the non-commissioned officers who tried to conceal the incident for dereliction of duty and attempted coercion.” He added, “The additional reports include one on a separate incident of sexual assault.”
A Hundred Days of Vaccination: Moving away from Safety Concerns and Putting More Faith in Herd Immunity
As of June 5, it has been a hundred days since South Korea began rolling out vaccines against COVID-19. As of midnight June 6, 14.8% of the total population received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 4.4% received all two shots. Despite the countless ups and downs, for now, the government appears to have passed the interim evaluation on the 100thday of inoculation in the “test” of administering first shots to 13 million people in the first half of the year. After administering the first vaccine on February 26, it took 90 days for authorities to vaccinate 7.8% of the population (May 26), but it only took twelve days to reach 14.8% after that. Authorities now have slightly over 10% remaining to reach their target for the first half of this year, 25% (13 million people). At the present rate, the nation is expected to reach the goal as early as in the third week of June and in the fourth week at the latest.
Maeil Business News Korea (http://www.pulsenews.co.kr/)
eBay Korea tender closes as two-way race between Lotte and Shinsegae
Korea’s retail archrivals Lotte and Shinsegae saw through the race over eBay Korea as the latecomers to e-commerce market vie for a leap through the purchase of the platform commanding third largest share in the country. Among four candidates shortlisted in March, SK Telecom and MBK did not hand in their final bids on closing of the tender Monday. The bid prices by Lotte and Shinsegae are not known. eBay Korea running Gmarket, Auction, and G9 is estimated to be worth near $5 billion. Market watchers anticipate the e-commerce player’s U.S parent to announce a preferred bidder after the board of directors meeting scheduled for next week.
Doosan Heavy I&C roars back on track as renewable builder and reactor exporter
South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co. has risen fast from last year’s default crisis that required state bailout as its devastation from government policy to phase out from nuclear and fossil fuel improved on state-backed transition to a builder behind renewable infrastructure and Korea-U.S. agreement to partner in exploration of global nuclear reactor market. Doosan Heavy I&C share price has more than doubled since May 24 after South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden in their summit agreed on cooperation in overseas nuclear markets. Its shares soared from 14,550 won ($13.10) on May 24 to close at 32,000 won on Monday, pushing up its market value by more than 10.6 trillion won.
Some Korean corporate giants could be affected by G7 tax deal
South Korea’s conglomerates running subsidiaries in foreign countries with corporate tax rate of less than 15 percent are expected to face extra tax burdens, following the historic agreement by the G7 on a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15 percent. The G7 group of advanced economies agreed to set a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15 percent to prevent countries from competitively undercutting to attract multinational companies. The Ministry of Economy and Finance said that South Korea could be affected if members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) agree to follow suit at conference next month. According to Rep. Yong Hye-in of the minor opposition Basic Income Party, the country’s 51 business groups have 473 subsidiaries last year in 22 countries designated as tax havens by the OECD.
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