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Dae-oh Book Store 33 Cafe: A Place of History, Culture and Family

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When I first moved to Korea, I spent every minute of my free time getting lost in the neighborhoods of Seoul. Wandering the unknown became a hobby and through it, I was able to learn a lot about my new home and discover many a hidden gem, whether it be a cafe, an interesting sculpture or a peaceful green space to sit and rest for a while.

As time went on and I grew accustomed to my new city, the neighborhoods lost a bit of their magic and I became slightly jaded. Over the past few weeks, however, I began to miss those afternoons spent in solitude and discovery and decided to get back to exploring the streets of the city. The historic district of Seochon-dong was first on my list. I had no expectations, which is probably why I was so delighted to have stumbled upon Dae-oh Book Store 33 Cafe.

Although Dae-oh is certainly no secret, it's obscure location keeps it off the radar of tourists and residents alike. Opened in 1951, it is the oldest second hand bookstore in the entire city and its worn signboard and rickety yet charming facade validate this fact. After the owner passed away, his wife, Kwon Oh-nam, decided to keep the bookstore open for business against the wishes of her family, as it was all she had left of her dear husband.

The years passed and as customers began shopping at larger book franchises and on the internet, the business suffered financially. There were times when Mrs. Kwon could only make a few sales a month. Still, dedicated to her husband and intent on maintaining Dae-oh Book Store for the sake of history and culture, she was able to keep it running. About a year ago, she and her family decided to transform the store into a cafe. One member of her family that has been particularly active in keeping the business' legacy alive is Jang Jai-hun, her twenty-year-old grandson.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jai-hun on my visit to the shop and he was eager to tell me more about the bookstore, the cafe and the hundred-year-old hanok (traditional Korean house) in which the two are housed. Jai-hun told me that at times, there were up to 9 family members residing in the small home. Despite the years that have passed, the house has remained relatively the same, and the furniture, decor and knick-knacks used in the cafe are the family's actual belongings.

I ordered a watermelon juice- the cafe's signature beverage- and it was served on a wooden tray with a map and the story of the home, and a dalgona lollipop, old-fashioned Korean candy made from burned sugar. I took a seat at a small desk overlooking the home's courtyard. Looking around, I felt like I had traveled back in time to the years of the Korean War. Hanji (Korean paper) dolls, an antique wardrobe, wooden sticks once used for ironing and black and white photos all contributed to the homey and nostalgic atmosphere.

The courtyard was just as quaint, with its old water pump, kimchi pots and chili pepper plants. Visitors can also peek into the kitchen and spot old appliances and vintage records. Attached to the courtyard is the remains of the bookstore, a small room which contains hundreds of fading comic books, text books, story books and magazines.

I noticed that there were a number of posters hung throughout the hanok indicating that Dae-oh Bookstore was a filming location for the Korean drama Shark as well as the backdrop for fashion shoots featuring modern hanbok (traditional dress). The photographs are a testament to Dae-oh's importance to the community, even today, as a landmark of the historic Seochon Village.

Jai-hun also told me that he hopes Dae-oh Book Store 33 Cafe can be a space where culture and art thrive, like many of the galleries that surround it. From time to time, there are concerts held in the courtyard and photographs and paintings by local artists hung on the walls.

Whatever the future of Dae-oh Book Store 33 Cafe may be, one thing is for certain: it will always be cherished as a landmark of history, tradition and family.

More Information

Address: 33 Nuha-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Phone: 010-9219-1349

Hours of Operation: Tues.- Sun. 11am-10pm

Website: Click here to visit the cafe's Facebook page.

To Get There: From Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway, Line 3, Exit 2), walk straight for about 400 meters. Turn left onto Jahamun-ro 9-gil after reaching Broccoli Accessory. (If you reach Tongin Market, you've gone too far.) Walk 100 meters and take the second right onto Jahamun-ro 7-gil. Dae-oh will be on your left. For a map, click here.

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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Scents of Seoul

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Spring just transforms the city and people alike.With the heavy coats off, the sun beginning to caress the skin with warmth, and the stark, bare trees beginning to sprout their little green shoots again, there is then the fragrance of enthusiasm and vigor in the city. Cherry blossoms, azaleas and forsythias emanate sweetness in scents and people come from far and near to rejoice in the longer, warmer days.

Cheery cherry blossoms
Cheery cherry blossoms bloom only for a week in spring

cactus budding

cactus budding

pink buds
Summertime, though, is scorching hot and humid, interlaced with thunderstorms which do not bring any respite from the hot temperatures. But the people are so cool about it and beat the heat at public parks along the Han river, sniffing the scent of rain soaked grass, ordering anything from chicken to pizza which is handed to them within the next 20 minutes! The place just revels in laziness along with the whiff of smoke from the diligent delivery guys, the energy of the people coaxing you to try their secret recipe chicken, and sweaty kids frolicking around along with the deep sense of serenity. 
ice cream in korea- big on binggsu
Binggsu- Beans on shaved ice with marshmallows and fruits. Unique combination to cool it off in Korea.
summer fun at Banpo
Summer time fun at Banpo park
Evening at Banpo
Long summer evenings
Fall, in all its color and splendor along with Chuseok~ the most important festival of honoring the ancestors in Korea~ adds in the aroma of family, friendship and camaraderie. This is also when people travel in droves through the length and breadth of the country and savor a totally different essence of the very same places, incensed with the smell of the sweet persimmon fruit.
Fall colors
fall colors in Seoul.

Sweet persimmons
Sweet Persimmons

Cold, dull winter adds yet another dimension to Seoul, transforming it into a white, icy wonderland. It is easy during this time to succumb into the toasty smell of chestnuts baked on beds of coal or the roasted sweet potato in makeshift stalls that seem to appear in every street corner. But the most satisfying smell comes from ice fishing in Seoul and immediately getting your catch on your plate, roasted, grilled or baked in spices in any of the restaurants nearby.

Early winter

Bare trees in winter
And then, there are some smell that just leaves one shell shocked. 
Fermenting soybean in huge pots
Doenjang is made from fermenting soy bean in huge pots and has a bad smell
The Doenjang (된장) or the fermented soya bean paste might have all the anti-carcinogenic properties, flavinoids, vitamins and minerals but it still smells disgusting. 
Drying fish
Drying fish

Dried Fish: Fish smell funny cooked or uncooked. But dried fish which is used as both toppings and side dish and of course, as the main course of a meal, smells really bad.

Kimbap preparation
Kim is the green, papery seaweed, used here for making kimbap. 
The See Weeds: Laver and Kim (김.) The green wonders, packed with nutrition and properties to get rid of cholesterol still smells really peculiar and the taste for it has to be cultivated ...

Screening of Short Films at the Circle Foundation

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One of my good friends directed one of the short films at the upcoming Imagine Short Film Festival.

Although the films are not necessarily gay-related, my friend's film (titled Sinchon) does have a gay theme. As it is this Thursday and I have my final test on Friday I won't be able to attend, but I encourage my readers to go.

The screenings will be at 7:30 on Thursday, August 7th at the Circle Foundation. I will be interviewing my friend about the short film later, and hopefully be able to provide a clip...

To get to Circle Foundation, take line 2 to Yeoksam station and go out exit 1. The foundation is on the third floor of the Narae Building.  

Hongryongsa: Rainbow Dragon Temple

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I first saw this place posted on the Busan Lightstalkers page and I was interested. Where else can you find a temple next to a flowing waterfall near Ulsan or Busan? I had to investigate further. I searched Dale’s Korean Temple Adventures site, which is my go-to site for temples. It has the most comprehensive listing and detailed descriptions of Korean Temples and it always has what I am looking for.


Getting to this temple is really tricky if you don’t have your own set of wheels. It sits up in the mountains of Yangsan and I did not see any signs for buses past the little village. Thus, it is better to catch a ride with someone or even take a taxi up. I did see many taxis waiting around there.


Shooting was great and the rush of the Rainbow Dragon Waterfall was amazing. It was unlike any other temple that I have been to in Korea. Not to mention that is was nestled into the mountain, so along with the waterfall you had a dark quiet place to relax as well. However, even during the rain, it was still packed with people making photography and relaxing a little challenging.


One of the things that I recommend is bringing a ND filter or something to stop-down you camera to not only get the flowing water but to give a longer exposure that will effectively remove people walking through your shot. As I found out here and in many other places, ajummas simply will not wait a couple of seconds and will push right through. Having a longer exposure will help eliminate their presence in your frame.


This time around, I wanted to shoot wide and used my Tokina 16-28 mm. This lens is not designed to be compatible with most filter systems. So I had to increase my f-stop up to f/22 and hope for the best. I normally bracket my shots in case I want to do some HDR but in this case it works because I can get a full range of exposures to choose best. I found that +1 stop worked well here as the surrounding forest was quite dark and overexposing a bit really brought out some of the shadows.

If you are a fan of my blog and site, you will know that I normally shoot HDR. However, for situations like this, you don’t really need it. Instead, I used NIK’s Analog Efex Pro 2 for most of the shots and Color Efex Pro 4 as well. I am really loving Analog Efex Pro 2 these days and I wrote about it before. It really adds a lot of depth and creativity to your images.

Other than that, I must say that I will be visiting this temple a lot more. The waterfall is simply too amazing to pass up. If you would like more information on this place drop me a line or check out Dale’s post

Ilyeon – 일연 (1206-1289)

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Ilyeon, the Author of the Famed Samguk Yusa

Hello Again Everyone!!

This is the tenth installment about prominent Korean monks. And this article is about the famed monk Ilyeon, who wrote the historic Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms).

Ilyeon was born during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) in Korean history. Ilyeon’s birth name was Kim Gyeong-myeong. Amazingly, Ilyeon became a monk at the age of nine at Muryangsa Temple in Haeyang. Then, at the age of 13, he became a novice monk at Jinjeonsa Temple. And he passed the Seon national exam at the age of 22.


The Samguk Yusa

During his lifetime, Ilyeon was a prolific writer. In total, and according to his tombstone, he wrote 80 volumes of work that focused on Buddhist topics. His most famed contribution, and the only one to survive to the present day, was the Samguk Yusa. The Samguk Yusa was written in Classical Chinese, which was used by the literate at that time, and it focused on folktales, legends, and biographies of famous monks from the early period in Korean history. Also, it is the earliest record of the Dangun foundation legend. It was written at the end of the 13th century, purportedly, at Unmunsa Temple in Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do.


Unmunsa Temple, Where Ilyeon Purportedly Wrote the Samguk Yusa

At the age of 54, Ilyeon was given the rank of Great Teacher. Also, he traveled to Ganghwa-do Island, as instructed by King Wonjong (r. 1260-1274), to establish Seonwolsa Temple. Then, at the age of 63, in 1268, he was appointed the chief presider of the Tripitaka consummation ceremony at Eunhaesa Temple at Mt. Palgongsan over 100 prominent Seon masters. And at the age of 78, King Chungnyeol (r. 1274-1308) offered the position of National Preceptor (보각국사) to Ilyeon, which he declined. Once more, he was appointed to the position of National Preceptor (Guksa), and he arrived in the then capital of Gaeseong (then Gaegyeong) to assume the position. However, not long after assuming the position, he returned to his mountain temple with the excuse that his mother was sick. Finally, on the eighth day of the seventh month in 1289, Ilyeon passed away after conducting interviews with various monks.

The post Ilyeon – 일연 (1206-1289) appeared first on Dale's Korean Temple Adventures.

On US-North Korea Relations: in short, They’re Awful

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That picture would be me and the “Great Chosun Leader, Comrade Kim Il Sung” (“위대한 조선 수령 김일성 동지,” as they told us to call him) in the Pyongyang subway. You’ll notice that the gold stature is nicer than the passing metro car (right) from the 1960s. That pretty much tells you what, and how awful, North Korea’s priorities are.

The Korea Times asked me to comment on North Korea’s relationship with the US as a part of its review of North Korea’s foreign relations. The original is here and re-printed below. My main theme is that most Americans are unwilling to accept the legitimacy of North Korea as a real, independent country like any other. Not only is it run as a orwellian gangster fiefdom which the world would loathe anyway, it should also be a part of a Southern-led, unified Korea.

Naturally, this worries the NK elite who in turn are hostile back to us. I suppose we could accept and recognize the permanent existence of North Korea, as the South Korean left would have us do, but I must admit I find normalization intolerable. The idea of coexisting with North Korea strikes me as deeply immoral, even if the cost of that attitude is near-permanent tension. I suppose North Korea is one of few global problems about which I am still a real hawk, but North Korea’s human rights record is so stupendously awful – the recent UN report on human rights in North Korea likened the place to the Nazi Germany for christ’s sake – that I just can’t take that leftist route of recognition.

Here’s that op-ed:


“Much recent media discussion has focused on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s successful trip to South Korea. It was widely remarked that Xi visited South Korea before North Korea, and this is often taken to suggest Chinese disapproval of the North Korean nuclear program.

This suggests a happy convergence between China and the United States on North Korea. For years, the United States and North Korea have been at loggerheads, not just over the nuclear program but much else. If China is genuinely breaking with Pyongyang, at least over the nuclear weapons program, there may be room for a Chinese-South Korean-US joint position on North Korea. That would be a break-through.

The American relationship with North Korea has traditionally swung between two poles – grudging recognition of its persistence, and an idealistic rejection of it as a brutal stalinist throwback. There is no obvious solution to this dilemma. In recent years, President Barack Obama has channeled the former impulse with his notion of “strategic patience.” The United States now is simply waiting for North Korea to change, seeing no obvious reason to engage it when engagement so often leads to frustration. But there is no active effort to overthrow it or aggressively demonize it. On the other hand, President George Bush pursued the latter, idealistic course. Bush placed North Korea on the “axis of evil” and sought to pressure it into collapse. In this he was similar to former President LEE Myung-Bak of South Korea. Lee was also a hawk who thought he could push North Korea toward collapse.

This is turn raises the central dilemma of US-North Korea relations – Pyongyang’s maddening persistence and the extraordinary incompatibility between it and the United States. While the US has worked with dictatorships in the past, such as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Park Chung-Hee’s South Korea, totalitarian North Korea is in a class of its own. It the world’s last and worst orwellian tyranny. It is more stalinist than even Stalin’s Soviet Union. Its human right record exceeds even the Taliban in its awfulness. It also has a demonstrated history of expansionism – the invasion of 1950 – and terrorism, such as the bombing of the South Korean cabinet in 1983. On top of this, it engages in nuclear and missile technology proliferation, brews and sells narcotics, counterfeits foreign currencies, and so on.

The contrast with American political values of constitutional democracy is enormous, making it hard for American officials to accept North Korea as ‘just another country.’ The American instinct is to reject North Korean sovereignty as a fraud, to see Pyongyang as a gangster fiefdom run by an insular, paranoid monarchy that should be unified as quickly as possible with South Korea. South Korean conservatives often talk the same way, and this shared, if usually unspoken, rejection of North Korean legitimacy has been the cement of the American-South Korean relationship. By contrast, the South Korean left has often looked for mutual accommodation strategies, which have frequently generated tension with the United States. It is hard to imagine the US ever accepting North Korea as a state like any other, opening an embassy there, encouraging tourism, and so on.

Yet North Korea continues to grind on, to the enormous surprise and frustration of just about everyone. Decades of predictions that North Korea would collapse have been embarrassingly wrong. How North Korea continues to stumble along is a topic of intense debate, but neither the collapse of communism, the famines of the 1990s, nor the demonstration effects of Arab Spring seem to have made a dent. Leadership passed seamlessly from Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un. Hence, the US-North Korean stand-off looks set to continue for decades. There is no obvious ‘off-ramp’ or ‘exit strategy’ short of unlikely regime collapse.”

Filed under: Korea (North), United States

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University


Blogger Beauty Night at Piccasso Studio

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It has occurred to me that many of my recent posts have pertained to Korean beauty. I should make it clear that Seoul Searching is not converting into a beauty blog- I'm far too unqualified for that to even be an option. The reason for the increase in K-beauty posts is because Korean cosmetics and beauty trends are becoming so in demand at the moment that I have had a number of opportunities recently to learn more about these trends and products and want to spread the word on to you guys.

The most recent opportunity to crop up was an invitation to a makeup class specifically for bloggers given by Yoohwai Top to Toe at the Piccasso Studio in Apgujeong in celebration of the launch of the new global store,

Although the brand name may be unfamiliar to most living outside Korea, Piccasso is the leading supplier of false lashes and professional makeup brushes on the peninsula. They've been around for about 20 years and are the go-to product for Korea's top idols and entertainers such as Ji Hyun-chun, 4minute's Hyuna, Kim Tae-hee and Park Shin-hye. So, always on the lookout for new products and makeup tips (I need all the help I can get!) I was super excited to attend the class and meet some fellow bloggers.

After arriving, we were treated to some snacks and wine and got to know one another before the class began. Soon enough, our teacher walked us through the entire process of applying everyday makeup- from how to cover up those pesky under-eye circles to ways to make our noses look thinner and 'higher', a beauty feature coveted by Koreans.

The last bit of the instruction, and the part I was most looking forward to, was a tutorial on how to apply false eyelashes. Although I had attempted the feat before, I had never done so successfully. As such, I never bother with wearing them, even on special occasions, as I'd rather not take the risk of them falling off halfway through the night or gluing them on crooked. I learned, however, that the process is actually a lot easier than I imagined... the application just takes some patience and practice.

After the instruction, we split up into groups and were told how to improve our personal makeup look. We were also given the chance to put the eyelashes on ourselves and although mine weren't perfect, they weren't terrible, either. Picasso's eyeMe lashes made a big difference- I did in fact look more glamorous and feminine than when I first walked through the studio doors. Additionally, the lashes were very natural. Maybe I will give false lashes a second chance after all.

Piccasso was kind enough to send all of us home with one of their foundation brushes, a brush pouch, four sets of eyeMe eyelashes and a bottle of wine. Though I probably won't be drinking it before I put my makeup on. Fortunately for you, I'm not the only lucky one here! is offering all Seoul Searching readers a 5% discount on all of your online purchases. All you have to do is enter the coupon code 'seoulsearching' at check out to receive your discount. Additionally, you can get free shipping on all orders over $70USD until August 14th. Don't miss out and find out for yourself why Korea's top beauty icons choose Piccassco.

For additional information on Piccasso, check out their blog and Facebook page.

Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Photos by Cory May. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

Smartphone accessories~ latest from Seoul

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Anyone could go to COEX mall, the largest underground shopping mall in Asia, at anytime and still end up doing something fun! Visitors get to shop around in the mall, see the famous Kimchi museum, check out the huge aquarium; whereas Seoulites tend to hang around in the game area where the computer game tournaments are held or go to the movies, take a look at the latest trends in exhibition halls. People might get a bit confused as to what to eat or drink as there are so many variety of cuisines in every price range to cater to the cravings.

Last week, anyway, being gadget geeks, we naturally wanted to check out the Smart gadgets and accessories exhibition at the COEX mall.

Smart gadgets exhibition
Image from

To bypass the long lines and evade the entrance fee, it is essential to pre-register for these shows by checking out the webpages and filling out the form. Thereby, we were able to get the badges by just telling (read spelling and later writing :) our registered name. I would take a screenshot of the pre-registration form on my cellphone the next time though, to avoid spelling my name and confusion with the email addresses!

The exhibition did not have anything state of the art, but it was a good place to check out the upcoming product ideas and really cute gadgets. There were some pretty weird stuff along with some quirky ones too.

Cute thing to stuff into the ear
We started off at the ear phones booth. Cute little things to stuff into the ear!
Things that  you stuff into your ear!
Yeah, i would probably feel more comfortable knowing what i am stuffing into my ear!
shoe colored earphones
Do you match your earphones with your shoe?
Earphones at exhibition
Earphones~ To match your personality and profession.
Alien ear phones
How about the UFO flavored earphones? It is all in the box!
curvy caterpillar headphones
With earphones done, curvy caterpillar headphones can't be far behind!
Cute emoting characters on the headphone jack
Don't forget to flaunt down to your head phone jack. Cute characters that emote according to your moods
 (when you tap on the emoticon app)
Any way you want cell phone covers
Dream it? you can have it~ cellphone covers!

Lego cellphone covers
Build your own cellphone covers

Cellphone covers were jazzy but I like the variety and designs at Express bus terminal or Gmarket.
cellphone covers with a stand
Cellphone covers that make a stand!
On-the-go cellphone holders
Cellphone holders~ Recording on the go!
cellphone covers for the athlete
Cellphone holders for the athlete. Notice the cover for a sweat free usage and lights that shimmer according to the music!
Underwater cellphone covers
Just in case you want to take the call under water or browse while taking a swim, look no further...

Butterfingers cellphone holder
Holders for the butterfingers
Extra lens for the cellphone
Extra lens for the cellphone. Wide angle, macro etc
self balancing two wheel electric scooter
One thing that i would have loved to take home from the exhibition
two wheeled scooter
Self balancing two wheeled scooter
Charge transferrer
The only thing i got to buy was this cable. It transfers the charge from one cellphone to another...

Textured printer
This printer was able to print pictures with some texture.

black and white laser printer
This laser printer was able to print black and white pictures at extremely high resolution

Fit Bit-like watches that constantly track your health.

blue tooth connected weighing machines
Bluetooth connected weighing machine, as useful  add on to the health monitoring 

More cool stuff...
More cute stuff.

Tongdosa: Pine Trees Dancing in The Wind

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Few places get to me as much as Tongdosa. I have always been a big fan of this place even before I came to Korea. I remember reading about it in a Lonely Planet although I can’t find it on their site. At any rate, I have been visiting here for over 10 years. When my parents came here they really wanted to see this place too and it is a great memory that I have of their trip here.


Tongdosa was first established in 646 CE according to Wikipedia and it is amazing that it still is around today. The Main Worship Hall is the only structure to survive the Imjin War. The rest of the structures were rebuilt after that time. Each part of the temple has something interesting about it and more often than not, a fantastic story attached to it.


What I like most about this location are the naturally aged buildings. I love the brightly painted temples but these just show you that they have been around for a long time. Many of the buildings on the grounds have not been repainted and have been left to fade over the years. It is refreshing to see that age of these buildings that date back to the 15th and 16th centuries.


This time I was out with some fellow photographers. I personally love the the walk in to the temple. Sadly, the guys that I was with were not so enthused about walking so far. We walked in anyway and it was great to smell the fresh air and enjoy the beauty of the location. The walk up from the entrance goes through the forest which is called “Pine Trees Dancing in the Wind” Too many times you shoot a location and you forget to actually look around enjoy the moment and the place that you are in. This walk is something that you would want to take as slow as possible.


The big issue for me is that when I finally get to Tongdosa, my creativity is zapped. I never can get truly creative shots. Perhaps I am just inside my head too much here or something but by the time I get to the main gates, I probably should just leave my camera in the bag and continue walking.


This time, I found a stairway that lead up to a small stupa on top of a hill. It was a hard climb on the hot day. At any rate, one of the things that caught my eye was the dark path that contrasted with the light at the top of the stairs. Everything about this place as so much age and wisdom. While there are no Buddha statues around someone had placed a small golden Buddha on this stupa and it had just the right amount of contrast for me.


If you have not had the chance to visit here, I sincerely encourage you to head out. This is one of the most important temple in Korea and certainly one of the more beautiful ones, at least im my opinion.


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