The History of Gyeonggi-do 600 Years

Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Gyeonggi-do, The Heart of Joseon’s Economy, Gyeonggi-do, a Splendid Culture Open to New Ideas, Gyeonggi-do’s Outstanding Cultural Heritages, Gyeonggi-do Province, the Last Bastion of Hanyang, Development of the Nationalist Movement at the End of the Korean Empire and Under Japanese Colonial Rule, Gyeonggi-do, the Scene of National Division and the Passageway to Unification

Gyeonggi-do, The Heart of Joseon’s Economy

The Rise of Commercial Agriculture

From the 17th century onward, commercial farming began to flourish in the suburban areas of Gyeonggi-do in line with advances in agricultural productivity. Diverse vegetable crops - including radishes in Wangsimni, turnips in Salkkoji Bridge, aubergines, cucumbers, and watermelons in Seokgyo, and taros in Itaewon - were produced for Hanyang, the main consumer market. Meanwhile, as the production of rice became increasingly commercialized, Jachae Rice from Icheon, which was well known for its excellent quality, became very popular among wealthy households in Hanyang.

Specialization of the Manual Industry

In the 18th century, the manual industry of Gyeonggi-do, which was largely self-sufficient and consisted mainly of temporary or part-time work, became highly specialized and began manufacturing goods for commercialization. Examples of this trend include hwamunseok (sedge mats woven with floral or other patterns) from Ganghwado and brassware from Anseong. In particular, Anseong brassware gained popularity nationwide and earned the nickname ‘Anseong-machum’ [literally ‘custom-made in Anseong,’ figuratively ‘ideal fit’].

Development of Markets

The development of commodity production in the agricultural and manual industries during the late Joseon Dynasty eventually formed the basis for their expansion and advance into the commodity distribution markets, i.e. jangsi (regular traditional farmers markets) and port markets, in Gyeonggi-do Province.

Jangsi, which were prevalent in farming villages in the three southern provinces of Korea around the mid-16th century, were established in the Gyeonggi-do after the Japanese Invasions of Korea in 1592. In the mid-18th century, a total of 101 ‘five-day’ markets (i.e. markets held every five days) including Sapyeong, Gwangjin, Nuwon, Geomam, and Songpajang markets were opened in Gyeonggi-do.
Mangi yoram, a book about financial affairs and military administration during the late Joseon Dynasty, written by Seo Yeongbo and Sim Sang-gyu in 1808, listed fifteen major jangsi around the country, including four markets in the Gyeonggi-do, namely, Sapyeongjang and Songpajang markets in Gwangju, Eumnaejang market in Anseong, and Gongneungjang market in Gyoha.

Activities of Hangang River Merchants (Gyeonggang sangin)

From the 18th century on, the riverside area of the Hangang River from Gwangnaru Dock to Yanghwajin Port, known as Gyeonggang, became the main center of influence for the port markets around Seoul. Gyeonggang merchants sold rice and cereals, wooden materials, fish, salt, salted seafood, and alcohol wholesale or retail to the residents of Hanyang (Seoul).

Market areas were established along the Hangang waterway, integrating numerous towns including Chuncheon, Gapyeong, Chungju, Yeoju, Jipyeong, Yanggeun, Icheon, Yongin, Yangcheon, Gimpo, Tongjin, Gyoha, Yeongpyeong, Majeon, Jangdan, and Pungdeok. Moreover, Baegaechon in Yeoju in the upstream area of the Namhangang River, and Jingpado in Yeoncheon and Gorangpo in Jangdan on the Imjingang riverside area were developed as key ports in the Gyeonggi-do region. By the early 19th century, the Gyeonggang region was playing a leading role as a trading center for goods from all around the country as well as a central market that controlled commodity prices in the country.

Development of Cities

Along with the commercial development of Gyeonggi-do, Suwon-si (situated near Hanyang), Songpajang Market, which was a base for commodity flow, and the Nuwonjeom Market area began to develop into commercial cities. Furthermore, as Gaeseong was close to Hanyang, and situated in the middle of the trade route that connected Pyeongyang, Uiju, and Qing China, regional commerce flourished. Suwon, built as a planned city during the reign of King Jeongjo, became a commercial distribution hub around the end of the 18th century due to the construction of the main road from Suwon to Noryangjin in Hanyang. In addition, Songpajang Market in Gwangju and Nuwonjeom Market in Yangju, both of which were situated on the outskirts of Hanyang, were developed as centers of distribution connecting the northeastern area with the three southern provinces of Korea.

The huge development of commerce and the manual industry in Gyeonggi-do during the late Joseon period was made possible because Hanyang, a gigantic consumer market, was nearby.

Gyeonggi-do, a Splendid Culture Open to New Ideas
Yi Jung-hwan, the author of Taengniji, the representative work on geography of the Joseon Dynasty, appraised Gyeonggi-do Province as the center of Korean scholarship, saying, “As the Gyeonggi-do region, famed as the heart of (Korean) culture for 300 years, was greatly renowned as a bedrock of Confucian customs and a cradle of Confucian scholars, it was truly a ‘little China’ (Sino-centrism).” Gyeonggi-do Province was regarded as a region that accepted new cultures in an open and progressive manner and advanced the national education system in an effort to carve a new path for the Joseon Dynasty and pave the way for modern society.

Center of the Giho School

Joseon society came to be dominated by Neo-Confucianism. After the 16th century, the Neo-Confucian world was led by Toegye Yi Hwang’s Yeongnam School and by Yulgok Yi I’s Giho School. The Giho School was composed of literati who had studied under or associated with Yi I, and was formed by Confucian scholars largely drawn from Gyeonggi-do, Chungcheong-do and Jeolla-do Provinces.

The Home of Silhak

In the late Joseon Period, when Neo-Confucianism had reached its limit, Silhak (Korean Confucian Social Reform Movement) emerged and began to develop in Gyeonggi-do Province. Silhak was led by a group of reform-minded scholars from Gyeonggi-do, Seoul and the Namhangang River area. While staying in Ansan, Yi Ik (pen-name: Seongho) strived to concentrate on his studies and foster his disciples, and established the Seongho School, which is also called Geungi School or Gyeongsechiyong School. Jeong Yak-yong (pen-name: Dasan), who came from Gwangju in Gyeonggi-do Province, synthesized Silhak into a more comprehensive system of thought. Moreover, many Silhak scholars who were living near Seoul formed new schools of thought with people who shared the same academic tendencies through kinship, regional or educational ties.

Establishment of ‘Yangmingism’ (Doctrines of Wang Yangming)

The study of ‘Yangmingism’ began in earnest in 1709 (the 35th year of the reign of King Sukjong) when Jeong Je-du moved from Ansan to Ganghwa Hagok. The Ganghwa School of Yangmingism was formed by members of Jeong’s family including his grandsons-in-law Yi Gwang-myeong and Shin Dae-u when they moved to Ganghwado Island.

The Birthplace of Catholicism in Korea

Gyeonggi-do Province is the birthplace of Korean Catholicism. Yi Byeok, Yi Seung-hun, Gwon Cheol-sin, Jeong Yak-yong and his brother studied the ‘Western Learning’, i.e. Catholicism, introduced from China and accepted it as their religion. Cheonjinam in Gwangju and Jueosa in Yeoju are considered the birthplaces of Korean Catholicism. Kim Tae-gon, the first Korean Catholic priest, devoted himself to missionary works around Golbaemasil in Yongin, as well as in Mirinae, Anseong, and areas of Gwangju and Icheon.

Gyeonggi-do’s Outstanding Cultural Heritages
Gyeonggi-do is home to a variety of outstanding cultural heritages, the most representative of which include ceramic wares, Hwaseong Fortress, and the Royal Buddhist Temple.

The Center of Korean Ceramics

From the early to late Joseon period, the Gwangju area was the national center of ceramics production. The Bunwon of the Royal Ceramic Manufacturer were established under the Saongwon (Bureau of Royal Court Food) and charged with producing diverse types of ceramics including white porcelain, inlaid white porcelain, celadon, inlaid celadon, white porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue, white porcelain with underglaze iron, white porcelain with underglaze cooper, and Buncheong wares. The ceramic tradition in Gwangju has been preserved by redeveloping Gwangju, Yeoju, and Icheon as new centers of Korean ceramics in the late 20th century.

Construction of Hwaseong Fortress

Designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, Hwaseong Fortress is significant in that it was the largest construction project ever undertaken during the Joseon Dynasty, and was the result of Silhak scholars’ ideas and techniques, which were relatively advanced for the time. A renowned Silhak scholar named Jeong Yak-yong (1762-1836) introduced new technologies in the construction of the fortifications, including the use of a multiple pulley system, drawing on Chinese and Western scientific techniques; while a new building material, i.e. bricks, previously recommended by Silhak scholars, was also used for the first time.

Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty

As Gyeonggi-do surrounds the capital city, most of the royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty are situated within the province. Due to the reorganization of the province’s administrative areas, some tombs became part of Seoul, but a total of thirty-one royal tombs are located in Gyeonggi-do Province, including the East Nine Royal Tombs in Guri, the Hongneung and Yureung Royal Tombs in Namyangju, the West Five Royal Tombs in Goyang, and the Yungneung and Geolleung Royal Tombs in Hwaseong. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Joseon royal tombs are much more than simply the tombs of bygone Korean kings: they are outstanding cultural heritages that attest to the cultural excellence of the Joseon Dynasty.

Buddhist Cultural Heritages

Although Buddhism was replaced by Confucianism as the state religion during the Joseon Dynasty, many large Buddhist temples continued to be established in Gyeonggi-do Province, mainly as guardian temples dedicated to protecting the tombs of kings and queens.

For example, Silleuksa Temple in Yeoju is the guardian temple of the tomb of King Sejong (Yeongneung); Bongseonsa Temple in Namyangju guards the tomb of King Sejo (Gwangneung); and Bongeunsa Temple in Gwangju guards the tombs of King Seongjong (Seolleung) and King Jungjong (Jeongneung), while Yongjusa Temple in Suwon was built to protect the tomb of Crown Prince Sado (Hyeollyungwon).

Gyeonggi-do Province, the Last Bastion of Hanyang
As Gyeonggi-do was the last bastion of Hanyang (present-day Seoul) against foreign invasions, many fortifications are situated in the province.

The Battle of Doksanseong Fortress and the Siege of Haengju

In 1593, during the Japanese Invasions of Korea, the allied forces of Joseon and Ming China launched a major counterattack against the Japanese forces. At that time, crucial victories were won at the Battle of Doksanseong Fortress in Osan and the Siege of Haengju, helping to demoralize the Japanese troops.
Doksanseong Fortress was the site where General Gwon Yul led 10,000 soldiers of the royal army to victory against the Japanese. The General stationed his army inside the fortress and used it as a base from which to wage conventional and guerrilla warfare against the Japanese.

The Siege of Haengju was a great victory for General Gwon Yul and the 2,300 soldiers under his command, who succeeded in repelling 30,000 Japanese troops at Haengju Fortress in 1593. According to one legend, the Joseon forces ran out of arrows at the height of the battle, so they fought with their bare hands, throwing stones down upon the enemy. It is said that the women inside the fortress cut pieces of cloth from their skirts and attached them to their waist to carry stones to the soldiers defending the walls.

Namhansanseong Fortress, Sacred National Site

The Joseon government conducted extensive repair and restoration work on the various fortresses around Hanyang after the king, royal family, and their retainers were forced to flee to the north during the Japanese Invasions of Korea (1592-1598). Namhansanseong Fortress was rebuilt in 1626 during the reign of King Injo, and a garrison and base (Sueocheong) was established within its walls. In 1636, when the Manchu Invasion of Korea broke out, the king and his government took refuge in the fortress and conducted the war against the enemy (Later Jin Dynasty) from there.

However, as the expected reinforcements from each province never arrived at the fortress; Bongnimdaegun (Grand Prince Bongnim, the second son of King Injo), who had taken shelter on Gwanghwado Island, was taken captive; and the fortress ran out of provisions, King Injo was forced to surrender after 47 days of desperate but dignified resistance. Namhansanseong Fortress is not a site of national humiliation, but a scared site where national pride was maintained to the bitter end.

Establishment of Yusubu (Administrative Organization)

After the Manchu Invasion of Korea in 1636, the Joseon Dynasty elevated the status of its administrative organizations, for example, the Gwangjubu became the yusubu in 1683 (the 9th year of the reign of King Sukjong), and Suwon became the yusubu in 1793 (the 17th year of the reign of King Jeongjo). The governor of Gwangjuyusu also served as its military commander, Sueosa with a force of 6,000 soldiers at his disposal. The Royal Guards (Jangyongyeong and Oeyeong), which were established by King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty, were stationed at the Suwonyusubu. As such, the yusubu was a military bureau established for the protection of the capital Hanyang.

Reinforcement of Fortifications

One of the most significant defense sites around the capital was Ganghwado Island. As the island was situated at the entrance to Hanyang via the Hangang River from the West Sea, it was a major strategic point in the defenses of Hanyang. As such, the yusubu was established on the island in 1627 (the 5th year of the reign of King Injo), followed by the construction of an external wall (Oeseong) in 1691 (the 17th year of the reign of King Sukjong) to reinforce Ganghwado’s defenses. Following its destruction, the wall was rebuilt with bricks between 1742 and 1744. Meanwhile, the internal wall (Naeseong) was restored in 1711 based on the structure that was built in the Goryeo period.

Development of the Nationalist Movement at the End of the Korean Empire and Under Japanese Colonial Rule

Emergence of the Righteous Army Movement at the End of the Korean Empire

The righteous army movement emerged at the end of the Korean Empire (1897-1910) to defend the country against the Japanese. In the Gyeonggi-do region, the movement started in 1894 when the Japanese Empire occupied Gyeongbokgung Palace by force. At that time, a student of Confucianism named An Seung-u recruited men for the righteous army in his hometown of Jipyeong (currently in the north Yangpyeong area); then, in 1895, when the ordinance prohibiting topknots was announced, many students of Confucianism including Kim Ha-rak, Jo Seong-hak, Gu Yeon-yeong, Kim Tae-won, and Shin Yong-hui gathered together in Icheon and formed the Icheonsuchanguiso, the united righteous army of the Gyeonggi-do Province. They fought against the Japanese garrisons in the towns of Baekhyeon and Ihyeon in Icheon. In the same year, the Gyeonggi-do righteous army, which was based at Namhansanseong Fortress, planned to advance toward Seoul together with righteous armies from the three southern provinces of Korea.

After the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, Japan began to interfere in the domestic affairs of Korea through their political advisor in Korea, spurring the formation of righteous armies all around the country. In April 1905, righteous armies including Yi In-eung started an uprising across the Gyeonggi-do region.

In July 1907, when Japan dispersed the Korean military by force, the soldiers joined the righteous armies, thereby reinforcing them. In December 1907, the Sipsamdochanguidaejinso, a united righteous army, was established by combining Gyeonggi-do’s righteous army with those from other regions including Hwanghae-do, Gangwon-do, and Chungcheong-do Provinces. Around August 1908, the Changuiwonsubu, or united righteous army of the northeast region of Gyeonggi-do, was formed and began to fight. The Gyeonggi-do righteous army’s struggle to defend the country from Japanese invasions continued for about twenty years, and its spirit was inherited by the army of national independence under the Japanese Colonial Rule.

The March 1st Movement

In 1919, the March 1st Movement, whose principal aim was to secure independence from Japanese colonial rule, started in Seoul and spread across the country. The March 1st Movement in Gyeonggi-do Province was led by students, farmers, Cheondoists, Christians, Buddhist monks, Sicheongyo believers, small merchants, and laborers.
Unlike other regions, Gyeonggi-do’s March 1st Movement was carried out with particular vehemence for about two months, resulting in numerous casualties. In the beginning, the movement was led by young intellectuals from Seoul and Gaeseong, with many urban laborers and merchants taking part, too. The movement reached its peak in the Gyeonggi-do region between the end of March and the beginning of April, spreading from cities to rural areas, and independence demonstrations were held in cities. The movement switched from peaceful and nonviolent demonstration to armed resistance. Armed struggle was originally a means of self-defense, but it ultimately became offensive armed resistance. In early April, the largest armed demonstration took place in Anseong and Suwon in Gyeonggi-do Province.
As the demonstration gathered momentum, the Japanese government arrested and killed some of its members. In early April 1919, the Japanese brutally oppressed the demonstrators in retaliation against the assassination of a Japanese policeman during the demonstration in Suwon, and the armed demonstrations held in Wongok and Yangseong-myeon, Anseong-gun County. The Jeam-ri Church Massacre also occurred at that time.
Of the country’s thirteen provinces, Gyeonggi-do Province saw the most active March 1st Movement of all, with over 282 independence demonstrations involving more than 170,000 people in total.

Gyeonggi-do, the Scene of National Division and the Passageway to Unification
Gyeonggi-do Province lies at the heart of the national division of Korea. The Military Demarcation Line (MDL) passes through North Gyeonggi-do, while the greatest concentrations of military strength in South and North Korea are stationed along each side of the MDL. As such, Gyeonggi-do has experienced many restraints and considerable damages in terms of administration, economy, and its inhabitants’ quality of lives. Therefore, it can be said that Gyeonggi-do has witnessed the history of division, and experienced all the damages caused by national division, because of its proximity to the center of national division. After South-North relations changed from confrontation to conversation in the 1970s, Gyeonggi-do Province became the main pathway of inter-Korean exchange and a passageway toward unification.

Damages caused by Division

On July 27, 1953, the date on which the Korean Armistice was agreed, the front line between the South and North Korean Armed Forces became the Military Demarcation Line (MDL). The DMZ (Korean Demilitarized Zone) was created as a buffer zone, and each side agreed to move their troops back 2km from the MDL.

Although the DMZ was established to prevent inter-Korean conflict, continuous military confrontations and tensions between South and North have inflicted extensive damages on the residents of North Gyeonggi-do. Restricted areas for civilians were created, while the enforcement of THE PROTECTION OF MILITARY BASES AND INSTALLATIONS ACT imposed numerous constraints on the economic activities and daily life of local inhabitants. As a result, the northern area of Gyeonggi-do became marginalized as a dead zone of development during the period of economic growth in the 1960s~70s. Therefore, the region lacks infrastructure and is both underpopulated and underproductive.

In addition, fishing activities are limited in the Imjingang River and the downstream area of the Hangang River. Furthermore, as military units are concentrated in northern Gyeonggi-do, various accidents caused by military training exercises - such as gunfire accidents and helicopter crashes - have happened in the area. Finally, the presence of many US army units in the area has, from a positive perspective, helped to boost local employment and local development, but has also brought with it various negative elements such as prostitution, crime, and damages caused by accidents during military maneuvers.

North Korea’s Military Provocations

As the part of the MDL that passes Paju-si is the closest section to Seoul, and the Imjingang River flows from west to north of Paju, it became the major channel for North Korean infiltration into the South. Until the 1970s, inter-Korean military conflict broke out on a regular basis in this area. In January 1968, a North Korean raiding party entered Seoul through Paju and launched a surprise attack on the Cheongwadae (Blue House). In addition, many incidents such as infiltration by North Korean agent, and South-North gunfights occurred in the area.

Underground tunnels in the MDL posed another threat after military confrontations and infiltration by armed agents. The 3rd Tunnel, the most significant of the tunnels dug by North Korea, was discovered on October 17, 1978. The tunnel was discovered in Wondang-ri, Gunnae-myeon, Paju-si, just 435m away from the MDL and 4 km away from the Panmunjeom. According to the report, which shocked the South Korean public, this huge arched underground tunnel was designed to enable 30,000 armed agents to pass through it in one hour.

Panmunjeom, the Gateway to South and North

Panmunjeom is both a scene of inter-Korean confrontation that illustrates the pain of national division and a window of reconciliation toward unification. Panmunjeom was the only road connecting the South and North by land, before the opening of the Gyeongui Railroad Line and the East Sea Line Inter-Korean Connecting Road. Panmunjeom attracted worldwide attention on October 25, 1951 when the Armistice Conference was moved there from Gaeseong, and it became the leading symbol of national division. On July 27, 1953, at the end of the long Armistice negotiations, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed at Panmunjeom, which simultaneously became the conference hall of the Military Armistice Commission.

As Panmunjeom is in the Joint Security Area, where South Korean and North Korean forces are deployed in a permanent stand-off, there is always a risk of conflict. One of the biggest conflicts was the Axe Murder Incident of August 18, 1976. As such, Panmunjeom, the main symbol of the Armistice Agreement, could have become the flashpoint for the resumption of military conflict.

Then, in the 1970s, there was a huge change at Panmunjeom. On August 12, 1971, North Korea agreed to South Korea’s proposal to hold talks between the South and North Korean Red Cross Societies, and, on August 20, the historic first Inter-Korean Meeting after the Korean War took place in the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission Meeting Room at Panmunjeom. Moreover, Panmunjeom was used as a venue for direct inter-Korean contact, and various talks were held there including the meeting of the South-North Coordinating Committee, the South-North Korea Sports Conference, the South-North Korea Economy Conference, and the Inter-Korean Parliamentary Talks.

Gyeonggi-do Province, Passageway to Unification

Inter-Korean exchange and cooperation was established with the efforts of the government and the private sector after the July 7 Declaration in 1988. Exchange and cooperation in the realms of economy, society, and culture helped ease tensions between the two Koreas and create a peaceful atmosphere on the Korean Peninsula. Following the inauguration of the Kim Dae-jung Government in 1988, the exchange of human and material resources increased greatly. In June 2000, President Kim Dae-jung visited North Korea to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in what turned out to be the first inter-Korean summit meeting since the national division.

At the South-North Ministerial Talks, held in July 2000 right after the inter-Korean Summit, the two Koreas agreed to connect the Gyeongui Railway Line between Seoul and Sinuiju, and the road between Munsan and Gaeseong. South Korea started work on the Gyeongui Line and the road on September 18, 2000 and completed it at the end of December 2001. The northernmost train station, Dorasan Station, was completed on April 30, 2002.
In August 2002, the two Koreas agreed to the construction of the Donghae (East Sea) Line and road, for which separate ground-breaking ceremonies were held in South and in North at the same time on September 18, 2002.

The opening ceremony for the Donghae temporary road was held on February 11, 2003, and a trial tourism program consisting of visits to Geumgangsan Mountain by land was launched. On June 14, 2003, the two sides re-connected the Gyeongui and Donghae lines, more than fifty years after they were disconnected. In 2007, the South-North railway was opened and operated temporarily. Inter-Korean economic cooperation began in earnest as tourism to Geumgangsan Mountain and Gaeseong got under way, and South Korean companies set up factories in the Gaeseong Industrial Complex in which North Koreans worked.

However, tensions and confrontations between South and North have continued despite the increase in inter-Korean exchange. Armed skirmishes broke out in the western sea border on two occasions, in 1999 and 2002, and North Korea conducted a nuclear test in 2006. Since then, the occurrence of a series of confrontations - including the incident in which a South Korean tourist was shot dead near Geumgangsan Mountain in 2008, the sinking of the Cheonan ship in March 2010, and the shelling of Yeonpyeongdo Island in 2010 – has put an end to any further inter-Korean exchange and cooperation, with the exception of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex.

Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
Credits: Story

600 Years of Gyeonggi-do

Planning | Gyeonggi-do, Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
Organization | The Center for Gyeonggi Studies, Gyeonggi-do Institute of Cultural Properties
Co-authors | Jingap Gang(professor at Gyeonggi University
Jonghyuk Kim(professor at Research Institute of Korean Studies, Korea University)
Sangdae Lee(head of Future Vision Department at Gyeonggi Research Institute)
Jihoon Lee(senior researcher at Gyeonggi-do Institute of Cultural Properties)
Hyungho Jung(cultural properties specialist at Cultural Heritage Administration)
Project support | Taeyong Kim, Seoyeon Choi, Youngdae Kim, Hakseong Lee, Sohyun Park, Hyungmo Seong, Hogyun Kim, Kyeongmin Kim, Sujin Jo(PR & Marketing Team, Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation)

For the celebration of Gyeonggi's 600 years(1414-2014), this exhibition is organized based on 『Gyeonggi-do 600 years』 which was published to remind us of the valuable history of Gyeonggi-do and encourage us to work further towards Korean reunification.

ⒸGyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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