North and South Korea to march together in Olympics under a unified flag (and a poll)

CNN reports that, after the recent thaw in relations between North and South Korea, or at least the resumption of talks and the participation of North Korea in the upcoming Winter Olympics, the two teams are going to march together under a unified flag and field joint teams:

North and South Korean athletes will march together at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony under a unified flag, the South said Wednesday, in a diplomatic breakthrough following days of talks between the two countries.

They will also field a joint North and South Korean women’s ice hockey team for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which begin early next month, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.
North and South Korean skiers will train together at a resort in North Korea before the Olympics start, and performers from the two countries will also hold a joint cultural event there.
North Korea will also send around 230 supporters to cheer on its athletes. A smaller delegation of North Korean athletes and supporters will attend the Paralympics, the unification ministry said.
The developments were announced following North-South talks on Wednesday at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two countries.

The Korean Unification Flag features a blue silhouette of the peninsula and outlying islands. It was first used in 1991 at the World Table Tennis Championships and has been used at a number of sporting events since, most recently at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

Here’s the flag:

Now the resumption of talks and North Korea’s participation in the Olympics is being touted as good news, but I’m not so sure. Yes, it looks as if the DPRK is willing to “talk”, but is it willing to a. consider reunification with South Korea and b. give up its nuclear weapons program? I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that would happen.

Reunification is simply out of the picture: the people of the North would finally discover how deprived and oppressed they are, and Kim Jong-un and the DPRK’s government would have to go. Why would they want to lose their power? As for giving up their nuclear arms program, I can’t see it happening. They’ve declared they won’t do that, and I believe them, for it’s the only leverage they’ve got. If they agree to slow it down in return for loosening sanctions, they’ll still pose a threat.

I have this feeling—and I may be overly cynical—that South Korea is being duped here. What do they expect will happen?  I don’t think the DPRK is going to launch nuclear weapons, as they’re not suicidal, but I don’t see making concessions to such an odious regime so long as they repress their people so brutally. (Loosening sanctions won’t, I suspect, improve the lot of the North Korean people, asforit’s in the government’s interest to keep them under its thumb.)

But let’s see what readers think:



  1. GBJames
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I voted “No opinion” but did so because of ambiguity in the poll question. It hinges on the word “improve”. I think things will improve but not a whole lot, and certainly not to the extent that we would hope. Still, a little improvement is likely, perhaps allowing some family visits.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I had to vote yes because I have no free will and I believe in history. When you open dialogue and then other things like participation in sports or whatever, it has to be good. Doing nothing is always bad. The more the people of the north could get a look at anything in the rest of the world the faster the old system goes down. The only way the old system goes away are by two results. One is war and who wants that. The other is from within and that is how it generally works, just like it did in the soviet union.

    Do you see as we always have, people trying to escape from this funny farm in the north. How many do you see escaping to go to the north?

    • Blue
      Posted January 17, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Me too, Randall, yes.

      Cuz of the i) “no free will” part and
      ii) the “from within” part.

      I can believe that mamas wherever (Worldwide)
      the oppression want for themselves and
      their babes only … … the opposite.


    • mikeyc
      Posted January 17, 2018 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      Dialogue between opposing countries is always necessary before anything good will happen. But it isn’t sufficient.

      I agree that change can only come from within.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted January 17, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        I also should say this. Trump does not give a damn about South Korea or N. Korea. He cares only about Trump. So most of the rest of the world, thinking this to be true, why would they want to talk to us. Nothing that Trump has done so far indicates he gives a shit about the South or Japan. Our history with South Korea use to be caring about them. That is no longer the case with Trump;.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 17, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      I voted yes too. Dialogue between North and South Korea is a good thing, and the only way forward. As Randy says, history teaches us that. It is only happening because North Korea has nukes – they now feel secure enough to talk.

      North Korea will not give up their nukes any time soon but they will not use them either. If people understand the mindset of North Koreans, they will understand why.

      And how about thinking about this. Would the US give up its nukes in any circumstances in the current political climate? Even if the rest of the world refused to have anything to do with the US, they wouldn’t back down. They believe they need them, and they threaten to use them. They are the only country that has, so the threat is real. Would Canada and Mexico greatly increasing their military and carrying out war games in the Gulf make the US more likely to give them up? Etc. Etc.

      North Korea sees their existence as under threat without nukes, and they’re probably right, no matter how much others deny it. They don’t see themselves the same way we see them, and until we understand that we’ll never get anywhere.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted January 17, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I think the biggest thing in all this is will N.K export their new technology. We have to prevent that. But using the bomb on others is highly unlikely. They know their existence will be over in less than a half hour. I don’t think they are suicidal. We are involved in many small wars and losing some of them. We do not think of using nuclear weapons and no one but Trump even talks of such things. In the modern world, nuclear weapons still scare everyone but they have no use. They are a deterrant (MAD) as they say.

      • Posted January 17, 2018 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

        I don’t really disagree with this but will point out that ALL countries with those weapons threaten to use them, by the mere fact that they have them. Their presence in an arsenal alone is a threat, even without anything overt. That’s largely the point of having them.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted January 17, 2018 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

          I don’t really think N.K. wants them so much so they can then use them. Having them puts them in the cat seat with us. They believe we intend to run them out, finish them off, put them out of power, whatever you want to call it. Having nuclear weapons is their security that we will not attack and they can concentrate on keeping their people in line and poor and ignorant. They look at our history – we invaded Vietnam. We invaded Iraq. We invaded Afghanistan. We are the aggressor and will invade them. The nuclear weapons are their security. Look at us, we have more nuclear weapons than anyone and yet we have a president who is so insecure he thinks we need a wall. Israel is in the nuclear club and they are in the wall building business too. Nobody is going to use nuclear weapons and only stupid leaders threaten it.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted January 17, 2018 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

            They do not look only at ‘our’ history; they look at ‘their’ history. A larger tonnage of bombs was dropped on the Koreas than was dropped on Japan during the Pacific War. Here’s Curtis LeMay talking about the Korean War in 1986: ‘We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, someway or another, and some in South Korea too.… Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what? — twenty percent of the population of Korea as direct casualties of war, or from starvation and exposure.’ There were virtually no cities or towns left standing in Korea, and most Korean people were living like troglodytes.

            • Tim Harris
              Posted January 18, 2018 at 6:45 am | Permalink

              And here’s another of General Curtis LeMay’s remarks, one that is worthy of Osama bin Laden or al-Bagdhadi: ‘There are no innocent civilians. It is their government and you are fighting a people, you are not trying to fight an armed force anymore. So it doesn’t bother me so much to be killing the so-called innocent bystanders.’

              Just look at the massacres perpetrated during the war by all parties to the Korean War, including the Americans (doubtless with LeMay’s blessing), and long after the war – in 1980, seven years after I came to live in Japan, there was the uprising in Gwang-ju and the subsequent massacre of participants (and non-participants) on orders from the military government that was then still in power in the Republic of Korea. Americans have not got over 9/11, and yet in comparison with what certain Asian nations have suffered as a result of the attentions of certain Western countries(I recommend reading Mark Twain on the Philippines or Nick Tulse on the Vietnam War – the Koreans, like the Vietnamese, were cheerfully referred to as ‘gooks’), 9/11 seems rather small beer.

              The day after the assassination in 1979 of President Park Chung-Hee, the military dictator who had collaborated with the Japanese in suppressing Korean resistance to Japanese rule, by the director of the Korean Central Agency, I happened to go to an exhibition of work by a very good Korean artist I knew, Quac In-sik, who had, I think, left Korea and settled in Japan for political reasons. I have never met anyone in such a seventh heaven of delight, and in those days I was young and inexperienced enough to be rather shocked…

              What I am pointing out is not directed at Randy Schenk, whom I respect, or anyone else in particular, but what appalls me is how oblivious people are to history and to what has been perpetrated by their country and in the name of principles that they claim to hold dear.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted January 19, 2018 at 2:59 am | Permalink

                Sorry: Randall Schenk.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

          That’s part of my point. That’s why NK wants nukes – they feel it makes them safe. All North Koreans believe that the US will invade them at any moment. They believe their Dear Leader has made them safe now, and it’s possible they’re right. Look what happened to Qaddafi when he did what the US wanted, including getting rid of his WMDs.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

        I’m right with you there Heather.

        Why is North Korea doing this? They didn’t have to. They would have suffered no immediate disadvantages from not doing so.

        My impression (and half the reason for having nukes is also bound up with this) is that they do not wish to become totally ignored and ghettoised by the rest of the world. They want to be recognised as a nation.

        (The other half of the reason for having nukes is, as Heather says, self-protection – to make it too costly for Trump to try another Iraq).

        I don’t see that this development can hurt, and it may help. Even if we assumed bad faith on North Korea’s part, what could they be plotting? – an invasion of South Korea by their Olympic team?


  3. BobTerrace
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I think it will improve a bit. They reestablished the hot line. They used to have manufacturing in NK supported just over the border but I think reestablishing that is not a good idea.

    I don’t think there will be much movement in relation to nuclear weapons.

  4. Posted January 17, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    This seems like Wile E Coyote in a bird-suit to me. It would be fun to watch if we didn’t have Yosemite Sam in charge of our nuke button. I’m going with no opinion though because you never know. DPRK has survived modernity by keeping their people away from the south and the world at large, and the best way to break the spell of propaganda is to look the other in the eye and realize they aren’t monsters.

    • darrelle
      Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      I really wish you wouldn’t insult Yosemite Sam like that.

  5. Posted January 17, 2018 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Cue the Orange One to say that his tough stance has compelled the North to start more open relations.

    • darrelle
      Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      It might even be true. But that wouldn’t mean that things wouldn’t have gotten so bad in the first place if it weren’t for Trump, or that there were many less assholish, stupid and dangerous ways to bring about this change.

    • Posted January 17, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      I was thinking the same thing. The toxic situation Trump has created may have motivated NK and SK to counteract with a move in the opposite direction. But Trump shouldn’t get credit for this because this was not part of a conscious strategy on his part.

      Imagine you shoot someone in the head with the intention of killing them. The bullet fails to kill them and when the doctors remove the bullet they find and remove an incipient tumor which they would not have found otherwise and which would have eventually killed the victim; do you get credit for saving that persons life?

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 17, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      It is not Trump’s tough stance. It is because NK has nukes that will reach the East Coast of the US. They feel secure enough to talk.

      The best the argument could go for Trump is that his aggressive rhetoric encouraged NK to hasten the pace of their nuke programme, bringing them to the point where they feel secure enough to talk more quickly.

  6. Jesus Figueroa
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Let the Koreans deal with there nation and stop sticking your (USA) nose in there affairs.

    And by the way why shouldnt North Korea have a nuclear bomb, are they the only nation with one? No. Then what is the problem?

    I fear more your shit hole president than North Korea.

    • Posted January 17, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      It is naturally worrying that a despotic nation would have a nuclear weopons program, even if it is really meant to be a deterrent against open conflict. But N.K. is especially troubling since they regularly lob missiles at Japan and toward the U.S.. No nation should have to put up with that sh*t.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

        Errm, when the US tests missiles over the Pacific, who are they lobbing them towards?

        If you’re in North Korea and you launch something, over water, it’s unavoidably going to be heading towards either China, Russia, or Japan. One assumes they’d rather piss off Japan than China or Russia.


    • mikeyc
      Posted January 17, 2018 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Nonsense. It ISN’T just the Korean’s affair. It never has been just theirs but it certainly isn’t now that an insane regime has missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

  7. Dave
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I’m inclined to agree that this is a cynical ploy by the North, carried out with the hope of driving a wedge between South Korea and the US, and by reducing the level of tension, to buy more time for the North to advance its missile and warhead programmes I don’t think for one minute that the North has any interest of stopping its nuclear programme until it has the capacity to land a missile on Manhattan.

    Overall, I’m torn between the feeling that any improvement in relations and thawing of tension is to be welcomed (glass half-full), and the feeling that armed conflict is inevitable and it’s better to get it over with before Kim has a fully-operational ICBM (glass half-empty).

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 17, 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      The Korean peninsula has been at peace for 64 years. Would it not be best for them to decide this than for you and your inevitability. Park yourself 40 miles from North Korea and then make your decision.

      • Dave
        Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        “My” inevitability? I didn’t realise I had so much influence on the matter! The decisions on peace or war will be made by leaders in Washington and Pyongyang, and I doubt whether either will ask for my advice before doing so.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted January 17, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          I’m sorry, I thought it was you who said, “Feeling that armed conflict is inevitable and it’s better to get it over with.” My mistake.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted January 17, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        Well said Randall.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I think NoKo’s game is to drive a wedge between the South and the guy who brags about his big button.

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted January 17, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      Yep. It’s a win-win for NK thanks to Trump.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        The circumstances are ripe for the DPRK to succeed, at least on a limited basis. The South has millions of civilian lives a risk, just from the 10,000 or so conventional artillery tubes massed in the rugged hills north of the DMZ. The South wants no part of Trump’s “fire & fury” brinkmanship — especially brinkmanship of the Donald’s ill-thought-out, shoot-from-the-hip, itchy-Twitter-finger variety. Trump is probably even-money to attempt a Bridges at Toko-Ri number on the North between now and the 2018 midterms.

  9. David Duncan
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Voted no.

    IMHO, the North’s angle is to squeeze concessions and dough out of the South and US. They have form.

    And to kick the can down the road a bit so they can improve the reliability of their weaponry. I’m reminded of Hitler, Chamberlain and Munich. “Peace in our time”.

  10. sabre422
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I believe the odds are not favorable for significant improvement in the coming year despite this interesting news about the Olympics.

    About 8 years ago I was involved in a project with Architects based in Seoul during a time when the North and South were actively pursuing plans to jointly develop a huge piece of real estate on the border just north of Seoul. The plan was to have this new “economic zone” which would benefit both the North and South. I learned that efforts such as this had come up a number of times over the years. This one advanced further than the others, but after almost a year of meetings, the politics eventually killed the initiative. The architects I spoke to didn’t seem too surprised and made a point of suggesting that the North did this sort of thing all the time, and that they had gotten used to the swift halts to work.

    Maybe going the sports route will help.

  11. Mike Anderson
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    This is simply a play by NK for sanctions relief – they’re not giving up anything. Trump got rolled by Li’l Kim.

    China is ecstatic – TPP is canceled, China continues to march across the South China Sea unchecked, and now this.

  12. J. Quinton
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Are North and South Korean athletes going to be interacting with each other socially between games? That can only end in disaster for the N. Koreans.

    All of those athletes will go back to N. Korea with stories about the freedoms and opportunities their southern siblings have. That can only make the friends and relatives of the athletes jealous, wondering why they bother to stay in the north. That will then probably spread to just about every person those friends and families interact with. It’s a recipe for an entire population filled with resentment and jealousy.

    The only outcomes from that are either revolution or even more repression in N. Korea; will the returning athletes be kept in isolation from their friends and families for the remainder of their lives?

    This might all be nipped in the bud if the N. Korean athletes are prevented from talking with S. Koreans freely. Either not at all or under supervised conditions.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 17, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Oh, I agree that the likely outcome of this will be to foment discontent in the North — similar to the way the spread of samizdat did in the former Soviet Union — but I think that is a good thing. Reminds me again why the US’s half-century boycott of Cuba was so wrongheaded, serving merely to prop up the Castro regime.

  13. drakodoc
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    I do not think the South is being duped. I suspect they realize NoKo is likely bargaining in bad faith. Yet the South persists….because it is the right thing to do. In addition, having the North join in on Olympic fun, it makes the games a bit safer and that is a very important short term goal.

  14. Steve Pollard
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Anything that reduces tension and makes outright war a bit less likely has to be a positive thing.

    But I suspect (although I cannot prove) that NK are playing a long game. For years they have consistently said that they want a peace treaty with SK and the US, in order to draw a line under the Korean War. Once they have achieved that, they will press the US eventually to withdraw its forces from the region, and its military support for SK. Then they will be able to pursue their objective of reunifying the peninsula on their terms. And guess which side China will be on in that venture?

    I hope I’m wrong.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 17, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      The last thing China wants is a US client state just across the Yalu River. It will do nearly anything to avoid that result, which is why it abides Kim Jong-un’s fractiousness.

  15. darrelle
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I voted “No Opinion,” but it would be more accurate to say that “I have no clue.” I can imagine lots of scenarios and reasons for them covering both “no” and “yes.”

    I am a little bit more sure of my opinion that I don’t think there is a significant downside to NK participating in the Olympics, jointly with SK in some events and training. Assuming that really happens.

    At a minimum some NKs will likely have some positive experiences they otherwise might never have. That may plant some seeds. But even if it only results in some few moments of positive experience for some NKs, that’s something at least.

    On the potential negative side, I don’t see any negatives beyond what should be fully expected in any case given NK’s behavior over the past several decades. I don’t see how they could leverage participating in this Olympics to anything worse. A bit of PR for them sure. But are any of the world’s other governments likely to be moved to let down their guard with respect to NK because of this? Not likely I think.

  16. Posted January 17, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I think anything like this is welcome, if it doesn’t backfire. But will it persist? I don’t know.

  17. Merilee
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 1:17 pm | Permalink


  18. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Here is the news coming out today. Trump interview with someone – says the Russians are sending supplies and equipment to N.K. in violation of sanctions. The faster movement of success in the nuclear development in N.K. is likely due to help from Russia. So basically, nothing has changed since 1950 when Russia gave the go ahead to North Korea to attack the South.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

      That is entirely possible, but I rate its credibility as zero unless it’s verified from some other source than the Orange One.


      • Posted January 18, 2018 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        Also, the usual story:

        If someone is threatening you, wouldn’t you want protection?

  19. littleboybrew
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I voted yes simply based on regression to the mean.

  20. Posted January 17, 2018 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    I said yes but that will make things better for N and S. The US is led by a dunce who won’t help anything.

    I recommend the podcast from the failing NYT, the Daily, from Tuesday for historical perspective on the olympics and the two countries.

  21. Posted January 17, 2018 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I voted “yes” because I do think this sort of thing can help improve relations. “Improving relations” will not include reunification, however, and will not include NK giving up their nuclear weapons. “Improving relations” would consist of NK becoming less belligerent and behaving better on the international stage (not firing missiles over Japan, say), and of other countries accepting the reality that NK is now a nuclear-armed state. It would consist of an end to the dangerous saber-rattling and insane talk of war between the U.S. and NK. The Olympics won’t cure all that overnight, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s a step in a positive direction.

  22. Matthew North
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    My first, quick, reaction to the North/South Korea flag was positive, but just as quick I realized that such a sentiment is anathema to the North Korean regime unless it is THEY who are in control of the whole Korean Peninsula. You can bet that Kim Jong Un and the small group of lackeys comprising his regime, who have a death-grip on the many millions of North Koreans, look on this sentiment with complete cynicism.

    Put to rest any thoughts of North/South harmony until the death-cult of The North is gone from the Earth.

  23. Matthew North
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    PS, I voted No.

  24. Tim Harris
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    ‘I have this feeling—and I may be overly cynical—that South Korea is being duped here. What do they expect will happen?’

    I do not think that the government and citizens of the Republic of Korea have many, or any, illusions as to the nature of the North Korean regime.

  25. alexandra Moffat
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    From what I have read, North Korea wants more than anything and will do anything to accomplish is reuniting the north and south. THAT is what matters and THAT is what every thing the north does is aimed at.
    And that is something the south would never tolerate, nor would the USA.
    So far, anyway.
    It is hard to imagine that the north would want to destroy the south in order to win a wasteland. But dictators are capricious….

  26. Susan D.
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Oh, keep your friends close; but keep your enemies closer.

  27. W.Benson
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    US relations with North Korean will not improve no matter what, or at least not until a whole lot of Koreans have died to satisfy US peevishness at having been mocked. Kim Jong-Un is on a permanent US hit list and we have become a lot more ruthless since Vietnam. I think South Korea realizes this and is attempting reach some kind of understanding with the North to use to appease Washington.

  28. Bob
    Posted January 18, 2018 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    I voted no, as the question leaves questions and no good answers.
    Relations may improve between North Korea and South Korea because South Korea has the most to lose in any military action between the torn country. Relations between North Korea and the USA will not improve because of Trump’s refusal to use the State Department to negotiate with any country, let alone North Korea. Relations between the USA and the world will continue to worsen because of Trump.

  29. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted January 18, 2018 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Me (and others, together) have spent decades trying to get some sort of modern economy working there. Treated with between contempt and active hostility by our governments (I wonder if [REDACTED] is allowed into America to see his grandkids, yet?). And now, after we’ve stopped pissing effort (and money) at the wall … some “person” else gets a happy ending. I wonder how much and who they paid?
    IF you can generate DEMAND, and a MIDDLE CLASS, then a growing , changing society works. (Which has *potential* to transition to something not wildly different from “democracy”.)
    Subsistence economy capped by a police state… a static society is required.
    Prediction : there will be NO meaningful interaction between the Korea’s during the Olympics.
    Where is my head-beating granite wall? Oh, there it is. The one with the blood-stained groove.

  30. Posted January 22, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I have mixed feelings about this but maybe anything that can ease tensions in the region is good?

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