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[Reminiscences]Chapter 1. The Country in Distress 1.My Family

 

 

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Preface

 

  

It is extremely moving for a man to look back on his past in his latter years. People lead different lives\and their experiences are varied, so it is with different feelings that they look back on their past.

 

 

 

I look back on my life with deep emotion\and I have strong memories as an\ordinary man\and as a politician who has served his country\and people. The country\and people I have served always occupied an important position in world politics.

 

 

 

I was born in the first period of the country’s ruin in the great national tragedy\and spent the early years of my life in the vortex of the rapidly-changing situation at home\and abroad,\and I came to join my fortune with that of the country\and share good times\and bad with the people in my childhood. Following this path, I have now reached 80 years of age.

 

 

 

My whole life, which has flowed with the current of the 20th century when the life of mankind has undergone unprecedented vicissitudes\and the political map of the world has changed beyond recognition, is the epitome of the history of my country\and my people.

 

 

 

Naturally, the course of my life has not been all joy\and success. There have been heart -breaking sorrows\and sacrifices,\and many twists\and turns\and difficulties. While I made many friends\and comrades on the path of my struggle, there were also many people who stood in my way.

 


 

My patriotic spirit made me as a teenager cry out against Japan on the streets of Jilin\and carry on a risky underground struggle dodging the enemy’s pursuit. Under the banner of anti-Japanese struggle I had to endure hardships going hungry\and sleeping outdoors in the deep forests of Mt. Paektu, push my way through endless snowstorms\and wage long bloody battles convinced of national liberation, fighting against the formidable enemy scores of times stronger than our forlorn force. After liberation I had to spend many a sleepless night in an effort to save the divided country\and again go through indescribable difficulties\and distresses in the days of building\and defending the people’s state.

 

 

 

In this course, however, I never once shrank back\or hesitated. I have always held a steady helm in my life’s rough voyage,\and I owe this to my comrades\and to the people who have helped me in good faith.

 

 

 

“The people are my God” has been my constant view and motto. The principle of Juche, which calls for drawing on the strength of the masses who are the masters of the revolution\and construction, is my political creed. This has been the axiom that has led me to devote my whole life to the people.

 

 

 

I lost my parents at an early age\and have spent my whole life amid the love\and expectations of my comrades. I hewed out the path of bloody struggle together with tens of thousands of comrades,\and in this process I came to realize keenly the real value of the comrades\and organization that shared their lot with me.

 

 

 

I   remember my early comrades of the Down-with-Imperialism\union who believed in me\and came to follow me on the hill at Huadian in the 1920s when there was no telling as yet if we would ever liberate our homeland,\and then those splendid comrades

 


 

who shielded me rom the enemy’s bullets\and who laughed as they took their comrade’s place on the scaffold. They never returned to the liberated homeland; they are now lying as spirits of revered memory in the fields\and mountains of a foreign country. The many patriots who started on a different path of struggle but joined up with us in the end are no more by our side.

 

 

 

As I witness our revolution progressing triumphantly\and our country prospering, with all the people singing its praises, my heart aches with the thought of the comrades who laid down their lives unhesitatingly for this day; often I lie awake at night with their images before my eyes.

 

 

 

In fact, I little thought of writing my reminiscences. Many people, including celebrated foreign statesmen\and well-known literary men, urged me to write my reminiscences, saying that my life would serve as a precious lesson for the people. But I was in no hurry to do so.

 

 

 

Now that a large part of my work is done by Secretary for\organizational Affairs Kim Jong Il, I have been able to find some time. With the change of generations, veteran revolutionaries have departed from this life\and the new generation has become the pillar of our revolution. I came to think that it was my duty to tell of the experiences I have gained in the common cause of the nation\and of how our revolutionary forerunners gave their lives in their youth for this day. So I came to put down in writing what has happened in my life, a few lines each time I found a spare moment.

 

 

 

I have never considered my life to be extraordinary. I am content\and proud to think that my life has been dedicated to my country\and nation\and spent in the company of the people.

 

 

 

I hope that what I write will convey to posterity the truth\and the lessons of life\and struggle that if one believes in the people and relies on them, one will regain one’s country\and win victory every time,\and if one ignores people\and is forsaken by them, one will surely fail.

 

 

Praying for the souls of the departed revolutionaries, The Myohyang Mountains April 1992


CONTENTS


CHAPTER 1. THE COUNTRY IN DISTRESS


1. My Family

2. My Father\and the Korean National Association

3. An Echo of Cheers for Independence

4. Repeated Removal

5. The Song of the River Amnok

6. My Mother

7. The Inheritance



CHAPTER 2. UNFORGETTABLE HUADIAN


1. Hwasong Uisuk School

2. Disillusionment

3. The Down-with-Imperialism\union

4. My Mind Turning towards a New Theatre of Activity

5. Ri Kwan Rin, Heroine of the Independence Army



CHAPTER 3. IN JILIN


1. The Pursuit of Progressive Thoughts

2. Mentor Shang Yue

3. The Young Communist League of Korea

4. The Expansion of the\organizatio

5. The Demonstration of Unity

6. An Chang Ho Delivers a Political Lecture

7. The Merger of the Three Nationalist\organizations

8. The Path Taken by Cha Kwang Su

9. The Lessons of Wangqingmen

10. Behind Bars





  

1. My Family

 

 

My life began in the second decade of the 20th century when Korea was going through the bitterest period of its national tragedy. Before my birth my country had been reduced to the colony of Japan. With the signing of the “annexation of Korea by Japan” the sovereign power of the King had passed to the Japanese Emperor\and the people of this country had been made slaves who were compelled to act under the “Decrees of the Government-General.” Our country, with its long history, rich natural resources\and beautiful mountains\and rivers, found itself trampled underfoot by the Japanese military.

 

 

 

The people were deeply grieved\and trembled with indignation at being robbed of their state power. In the fields\and houses of this land,\where there was “wailing all day after the nation’s fall,” many loyalists\and Confucian scholars killed themselves, unable to bear the agony of the country’s ruin. Even nameless people rom the lowest class, lamenting the tragic fate of the country, responded to the disgraceful “annexation of Korea by Japan” by committing suicide.

 

 

 

A barbaric system of rule by gendarmerie\and police was established in our country,\and moreover even primary schoolteachers, to say nothing of policemen\and civil servants, wore gold -laced uniforms, regulation caps\and sabres. On the strength of Imperial\ordinances the governor-general controlled the army\and navy\and exercised unlimited power to stop the ears\and mouths of our people\and bind them hand\and foot. All political and academic\organizations founded by Koreans were forced to disband. 

 

Korean patriots were thrashed with lead-weighted cowhide lashes in detention rooms\and prisons. Law-enforcement agents who had adopted the methods of torture used in the days of the Tokugawa shogunate burned the flesh of Koreans with red-hot iron rods.

 

 

 

Successive decrees of the government-general that were issued to blot out all that was Korean, even forced Koreans to dye their traditional white clothes black. The big businesses of Japan that had come across the Korean Strait carried off heaps of treasure\and the riches of our country in the name of various\ordinances such as the “Company Act”\and the “Survey Act.”

 

 

 

While visiting various parts of the world I have had the opportunity of seeing many former colonial countries, but I have never seen imperialism so hideous that it deprived people of their language\and surnames\and even plundered them of their tableware.

 

 

 

Korea in those days was a living hell. The Korean people were no more alive than dead. Lenin was absolutely correct when he said, “...Japan will fight so as to continue to plunder Korea, which she is doing with unprecedented brutality, combining all the latest technical inventions with purely Asiatic tortures.”

 

 

 

My boyhood coincided with the time when the imperialists were struggling fiercely to redivide their colonies throughout the world. In the year of my birth successive sensational events took place in many parts of the world. That year a US marine corps landed in Honduras, France made Morocco its protectorate\and Italy occupied the Rhodes of Turkey.

 

 

 

In Korea the “Land Survey Act” was published\and the people were restless.

In short, I was born at an uneasy time of upheaval\and passed my boyhood in unfortunate circumstances. This situation naturally influenced my development.

 

 

 

After hearing rom my father about the circumstances of our country’s ruin, I felt a profound bitterness against the feudal rulers\and made up my mind to devote my life to the regaining of our nation’s sovereignty.

 

 

 

While other people were travelling the world by warship\and by train, our country’s feudal rulers rode on donkeys\and wore horse- hair hats, singing of scenic beauties. Then, when aggressive forces rom the west\and east threatened them with their navies, they opened the doors of the country that had been so tightly closed. The feudal monarchy then hosted a contest for concessions in which the foreign forces had their own way.

 

 

 

Even when the country’s fate was at stake, the corrupt\and incompetent feudal rulers, given to flunkeyism towards the great powers for generations, indulged in sectarian strife under the manipulation of the great powers. So, when the pro-Japanese faction gained the upper hand, Japanese soldiers guarded the royal palace,\and when the pro- Russian faction was more powerful, Russian soldiers guarded the Emperor. Then, when the pro-Chinese faction got the better of the others, Chinese guards stood on sentry at the palace.

 

 

 

As a result, the Queen was stabbed to death by a terrorist gang within the royal palace (the “Ulmi incident” of 1895), the King was detained in a foreign legation for a year (“Moving to the Russian legation” in 1896),\and the King’s father was taken away as prisoner to a foreign country; yet the Korean government had to apologize to that country.

 

 

 

When even the duty of guarding the royal palace was left to foreign armies, who was there to guard\and take care of this country?

In this wide world a family is no more than a small\drop of water. But a\drop of water is also a part of the world\and cannot exist apart rom the latter. The waves of modern history that spelled the ruin of Korea swept mercilessly into our house. But the members of my family did not yield to the threat. Rather, they threw themselves unhesitatingly into the storm, sharing the nation’s fate.

 

 

 

Our family moved north rom Jonju in North Jolla Province in search of a living at the time of my ancestor Kim Kye Sang.

 

Our family settled at Mangyongdae at the time of my great-grandfather Kim Ung U. He was born at Jungsong-ri in Pyongyang\and worked as a farmer rom his early years. He was so poor that he became a grave keeper for the landlord Ri Phyong Thaek in Pyongyang\and moved to the grave keeper’s cottage at Mangyongdae in the 1860s.

 

 

 

Mangyongdae is a place of great scenic beauty. The hill by our house is called Nam Hill,\and when you look out over the River Taedong rom the top of the hill you command a view that is like a beautiful picture scroll. Rich people\and government officials vied with one another in buying hills in the Mangyongdae area as burial plots because they were attracted by the beautiful scenery there. The grave of one governor of Phyongan Province was at Mangyongdae.

 

 

 

Working as tenant farmers rom generation to generation, my family eked out a scanty living. The family line had been continued by a sole heir for three generations before my grandfather Kim Po Hyon produced six sons\and daughters. Then the number of members of the family increased to nearly ten.

 

 

 

My grandfather worked hard to feed his children. At early dawn when other people were still in bed he would go round the village to collect manure. At night he would twist straw ropes, make straw sandals\and plait straw mats by lamplight.

My grandmother Ri Po Ik spun thread every night.

 

 

 

My mother Kang Pan Sok weeded the fields all day long\and wove cotton by night with my aunts Hyon Yang Sin, Kim Kuilnyo, Kim Hyong Sil\and Kim Hyong Bok.

 

 

 

Ours was such a poor home that my uncle Kim Hyong Rok was unable to attend school\and helped my grandfather in farming rom his boyhood. A slight knowledge of the Thousand-Character Text (a primer of Chinese characters) he learned at the age of nine was all the education he got.

 

 

 

All the members of my family toiled as hard as they could, but they could never afford enough gruel. Our gruel was prepared rom uncleaned sorghum,\and I still remember that it was so coarse that it was difficult to swallow.

 

 

 

So such things as fruit\and meat were way beyond our means. Once I had sore throat\and grandmother obtained some pork for me. I ate it\and my throat got better. After that, whenever I felt like eating pork I wished I had a sore throat again.

 

 

 

While I was spending my childhood at Mangyongdae, my grandmother always regretted that we had no clock in our house. Although she was not a covetous woman, she was very envious of clocks hanging on the walls of other houses. In our neighbourhood there was one house with a clock.

 

 

 

I have heard that my grandmother began to speak enviously of that clock after my father began attending Sungsil Middle School. Because we had no clock, every morning she would wake up before dawn after a restless night\and, guessing the time, quickly prepare breakfast. It was 12 kilometres rom Mangyongdae to Sungsil Middle School, so my father might have been late for school if she had not cooked breakfast early enough.

 

 

 

Sometimes she would prepare a meal in the middle of the night\and, not knowing if it was time for her son to leave for school, sit looking out through the eastern window of the kitchen for hours. At such times she would say to my mother, “Go\and find out what time it is at the house behind.”

 

 

 

However, my mother would not enter the house, reluctant to bother the people there, but would squat outside the fence waiting for the clock to strike the hours. Then she would return\and tell grandmother the time.

 

 

 

When I returned home rom Badaogou, my aunt inquired after my father before telling me that\whereas my father had a hard time walking a long way to school every day, it would be good for me to go\and stay at my mother’s parents’ home at Chilgol, as the school was nearby.

 

 

 

My family could not afford the clock my grandmother so desired until national liberation.

 

My family, though living only on gruel, were warm-hearted\and ready to help one another\and their neighbours.

 

“We can live without money, but not without humanity,” was what my grandfather used to say when admonishing his sons\and daughters. This was the philosophy of my family.

 

 

 

My father was sensitive to new things\and had a great desire to learn. He was taught the Thousand-Character Text at the private village school, yet he was always anxious to go to a regular school.

 

 

 

In the summer of the year when the Emissary Incident at The Hague took place, a joint athletics meeting was held in Sulmae village with the participation of the pupils rom Sunhwa, Chuja, Chilgol\and Sinhung Schools. My father went to the athletics meeting as a champion of Sunhwa School and took first place in many events such as the horizontal bar, wrestling\and running. But in the high jump he lost first place to a competitor rom another school. What happened was that his pigtail was caught in the crosspiece,\and this prevented him rom winning.

 

 

 

After the sports meeting my father went up the hill at the back of the school\and cut off his pigtail. In those days it was no easy thing to cut off one’s pigtail without the permission of one’s parents and in disregard of the old convention that had been passed down over hundreds of years.

 

 

 

My grandfather took the matter very seriously\and created a great fuss. By nature my family were strong in character.

 

Afraid of grandfather, my father dared not come home that day. He hung around outside the fence, so my great-grandmother took him to the back gate\and gave him a meal. She loved him dearly, he being the heir to the family. My father would often say that he was able to attend Sungsil Middle School thanks to her kind assistance. She persuaded my grandfather Kim Po Hyon to allow my father to go to a modern school. In those days when feudal customs still prevailed, my grandfather’s generation were not very impressed by modern schools.

 

 

 

My father started at Sungsil Middle School in the spring of 1911, the year after the country’s ruin. That was in the early period of the introduction of modern civilization, so few children of the nobility were receiving the new-style school education. It was very difficult for poor families like ours that could hardly afford enough sorghum gruel to send their children to school.

 

 

 

The monthly tuition fee at Sungsil Middle School at the time was two won. To earn two won my mother went to the River Sunhwa and collected shellfish to sell. My grandfather grew melons, my grandmother young radishes,\and even my uncle who was only 15 years old made straw sandals to earn money to help his elder brother with his school fees.

 

 

 

My father worked after school until dusk in a workshop run by the school to earn money. Then he would read books for hours in the school library before returning home late at night. After sleeping for a few hours, he would go to school again in the morning. 

As is clear, our family was a simple\and\ordinary one the like of which could be found commonly in any farm village\or town in Korea in those days. It was a poor family that was not particularly outstanding\or remarkable in comparison with other families.

 

 

 

But my family were all ready to sacrifice themselves without hesitation when it came to doing something for the country and the people.

 

 

 

My great-grandfather was a grave keeper for another family, but he ardently loved his country\and home town.

 

When the US imperialist aggressors’ ship General Sherman sailed up the River Taedong\and anchored at Turu Islet, my great-grandfather, together with some other villagers, collected ropes rom all the houses\and stretched them across the river between Konyu Islet\and Mangyong Hill; then they rolled some stones into the river to block the way of the pirate ship.

 

 

 

When he heard that the General Sherman had sailed up to Yanggak Islet\and was killing the people there with its cannons\and guns,\and that its crew were stealing the people’s possessions\and raping the women, he rushed to the walled city of Pyongyang at the head of the villagers. The people of the city, with the government army, loaded a lot of small boats with firewood, tied them together, set them on fire\and floated them down towards the aggressor ship, so that the American ship was set on fire\and sank with all hands. I was told that my great-grandfather played a major role in this attack.

 

 

 

After the sinking of the General Sherman, the US imperialist aggressors sent another vessel, the warship Shenandoah, which sailed into the mouth of the River Taedong,\where its crew committed murder, incendiary attacks\and pillage. The people of Mangyongdae again formed a volunteers unit\and fought to defend their country rom the Shenandoah

My grandfather, who used to say, “A man should die fighting the enemy on the battlefield,” always told his family to live honourably for their country\and he offered his children unhesitatingly to the revolutionary struggle.

 

 

 

My grandmother, too, taught her children to live uprightly\and stoutly.

 

Once the Japanese treated her harshly by dragging her round the mountains\and fields of Manchuria in the depth of winter in\order to make me “submit.” But she scolded them\and remained strong\and proud as befitting the mother\and grandmother of revolutionaries.

 

 

 

My maternal grandfather Kang Ton Uk was an ardent patriot\and teacher who devoted his whole life to the education of the younger generation\and the independence movement, teaching the children\and young people at the private school he had founded in his home village. My maternal uncle Kang Jin Sok was also a patriot who joined the independence movement when still young.

 

 

 

My father taught me tirelessly rom my early childhood to foster profound patriotism. rom his desire\and hope he named me Song Ju, meaning that I should be a pillar of the country.

 

 

 

As a pupil of Sungsil Middle School he, with his two younger brothers, planted three white aspens near the house to symbolize the three brothers. In those days there were no white aspens in Mangyongdae. That day my father told his brothers that the white aspen was a rapidly growing tree\and that they, the three brothers, should grow rapidly\and strong like the tree so as to win national independence\and enjoy a good life.

 

 

 

Later, my father left Mangyongdae to continue his revolutionary activities\and, following him, my uncle Kim Hyong Gwon took the path of struggle. 

Then only my eldest uncle was left behind in Mangyongdae, but the three white aspens grew into tall trees. But their shadows fell across the fields of the landlord. The landlord said that the shadows would harm his crop,\and he felled one of the trees.Yet, our family could not protest. Such was the lawlessness of the time.

 

 

 

I heard of this when I returned home after the liberation of the country. I felt really angry about it as I remembered my late father’s beautiful dream.

 

 

 

This was not the only cause of regret.

 

 

 

Several ash trees had stood in front of my old home. As a boy, I would often climb the trees\and play in them with my friends. When I returned home after 20 years’ absence, I discovered that the tree that had stood closest to the house was no longer there.

 

 

 

My grandfather told me that my uncle had cut it down. The story was really pitiful.

 

While I was waging the war in the mountains, the police had tormented my family unbearably.

 

Police rom the Taephyong sub-station took turns to keep our house under surveillance. Taephyong was some distance rom Mangyongdae,\and in summer the shade afforded by the ash trees served as a sort of guard post. As they sat in the shadow, they would call to the villagers\or fan themselves to sleep. Sometimes they would drink alcohol\and eat chicken\or harass my grandfather\and uncle.

 

 

 

One day my uncle, who was so good\and quiet, went out with an axe\and cut down one of the ash trees,\and my grandfather told me that he had not even thought of dissuading him. He added, “There’s a saying that one is pleased to see the bugs die in a fire even though one’s house is burnt down.”

 

 

 

His words caused me to smile wryly.

 

 

 

My grandparents had a very hard time because of their revolutionary sons\and grandsons. But in spite of their bitter trials and persecution they never gave in but fought on stoutly. In the closing period of Japanese rule the Japanese imperialists forced Koreans to change their names to Japanese ones. But my grandparents refused to do so. In my home village only my family held out to the last without changing their names to Japanese ones.

 

 

 

All the other families changed their names. If they did not change their names, people found it hard to survive because the Japanese government authorities refused them food rations.

 

 

 

My uncle Hyong Rok was beaten\and summoned to the police sub-station many times because he would not agree to change his name.

 

 

 

“Now you aren’t Kim Hyong Rok. What’s your name?” the policeman in charge would demand. To this my uncle would answer, “It’s Kim Hyong Rok.”

 

 

 

At this the policeman would leap on him\and slap him across the face.

 

“Tell me again. What’s your name?” the policeman would ask him once more. Then he would answer calmly, “It’s Kim Hyong Rok.”

 

 

 

Then the policeman would slap him even harder on the face. Every time he replied, “Kim Hyong Rok,” he was boxed on the ears. Yet he never submitted.

 

 

 

My grandfather said to his son: “It’s a truly good thing that you haven’t changed your name to a Japanese one. When Song Ju’s fighting the Japanese, you can’t change your name into a Japanese one, can you? We mustn’t change our names on any account, even if it means we’re beaten to death.”

 

 

 

When members of the family said farewell to my grandfather\and grandmother\and left the house, they would walk out through the brushwood gate in high spirits, saying that they would return after liberating the country.

 

 

 

But I was the only one who returned. 

My father, who devoted his whole life to the independence movement, died under a foreign sky at the age of 31. A man of 31 is in the prime of his life. My grandmother came rom home after his funeral. Even now I can see her before my eyes as she wept at the side of her son’s grave in the village of Yangdicun, Fusong, Manchuria.

 

 

 

Six years later my mother, too, passed away, in Antu, without seeing the day of national independence.

 

My younger brother Chol Ju who joined a guerrilla unit after our mother’s death\and fought the enemy was killed in battle. Because he fell on the battlefield his body was never recovered.

 

 

 

A few years later, my youngest uncle who had been sentenced to long years in prison\and was serving his term in Mapho gaol died from cruel torture. Our family received notice that they should recover his body but could not do so because they had no money. So, my uncle’s ashes were committed to the earth in the prison cemetery.

 

 

 

Thus, over a period of 20 years many of the strong, healthy sons of our family turned to ashes\and lay scattered in foreign lands.

 

 

 

When I returned home after liberation, my grandmother hugged me outside the brushwood gate\and pounded me on my chest, saying: “How have you come back alone?\where did you leave your father\and mother? Did you not want to return with them?”

 

 

 

With her heart bursting with such deep grief, what was my agony as I walked through the brushwood gate of my old home alone without bringing with me even the bones of my parents who were dead\and lying in a far-off foreign land?

 

 

 

After that, whenever I passed through the gate of someone else’s home, I would wonder how many members of the family had gone out through that gate\and how many of them had returned. All the gates in this country have a story about tearful partings\and are associated with a longing for those who have not returned\and the heart-rending pain of loss. Tens of thousands of fathers\and mothers, brothers\and sisters of this country gave their lives on the altar of national liberation. It took our people as long as 36 years to win back their country, crossing a sea of blood, tears\and sighs\and braving storms of shells\and bullets. It was 36 years of bloody war which cost us too high a price. But if it were not for this bloody war\and sacrifices, how could we ever imagine our country as it is today? This century of ours would still be a century of misery\and suffering with the disgraceful slavery continuing.

 

 

 

My grandfather\and grandmother were old country people who knew nothing but farming. But truth to tell, I marvelled at their firm revolutionary spirit\and was greatly inspired by it.

 

 

 

It is not easy to bring up children\and send them all out on the path of the revolution\and then give them constant support while enduring silently all the ensuing trials\and hardships. I think this is much more impressive than a few battles\or some years in prison.

 

 

 

The misfortune\and distress of our family is the epitome of the misfortune\and distress that befell our people after they lost their country. Under the inhuman rule of Japanese imperialism millions of Koreans lost their lives—dying of starvation, of the cold, rom burning\or rom flogging.

 

 

 

In a ruined country neither the land nor the people can remain at peace. Under the roofs of houses in a ruined country even the traitors who live in luxury as a reward for betraying their country will not be able to sleep in peace. Even though they are alive, the people are worse than gutter dogs,\and even if the mountains\and rivers remain the same, they will not retain their beauty.

 

 

 

A man who perceives this truth before others is called a forerunner; he who struggles against difficulties to save his country from tragedy is called a patriot;\and he who sets fire to himself to demonstrate the truth\and overthrows the injust society by rousing the people to action is called a revolutionary.

 

My father was a pioneer of our country’s national liberation movement. He dedicated his whole life to the revolution rom his birth in Mangyongdae on July 10, 1894, until his death as he lamented the dark reality of national decay on June 5, 1926.

 

I was born the eldest son of my father Kim Hyong Jik at Mangyongdae on April 15, 1912 

 


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