Exclusive Report: Global Hyundai Club Invitation, South Korea


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350Z

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The origin of this grand tale ignited somewhere in the mid of August which for me was ‘just another day’ until I received a call from Hyundai Motor Corporation, inviting The Automotive India to their first of its kind initiative, known as the “Global Hyundai Club Invitation”, to be held on their native land, South Korea. Like the name itself suggests, this event was organized to offer 35 handpicked people from 14 countries across the globe a chance to experience the ‘Hyundai’ way of life and gain a better understanding of their corporate vision and philosophy. The participants were not only limited to media persons but also included company’s officials as well as die-hard fans who are running popular Hyundai clubs in their own region. Of course, I was excited to meet likeminded people coming from different corners of the world but little did I know that this trip of mine is also going to become an experience of a lifetime.

The Stars:

  • Brazil

  • China

  • Costa Rica

  • Czech Republic

  • Ecuador

  • France

  • Germany

  • India

  • Italy

  • Oman

  • Russia

  • Turkey

  • United Arab Emirates

  • United States of America

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The Program:

September 29, 2013

  • Arrival
September 30, 2013

  • Hyundai Motor Headquarter

  • Namyang R&D Center

  • Lunch

  • Asan Plant

  • Welcome Dinner
October 1, 2013

  • Seoul Tour

  • Lunch

  • Seoul To Jeju Island

  • Dinner
October 2, 2013

  • Yacht Tour

  • Lunch

  • Test Drive

  • Farewell Dinner
October 3, 2013

  • Departure
This thread is a coverage cum personal memoir of the event and therefore will follow sequence of actual itinerary.

So, ladies and gentlemen, grab a cup of coffee and read on.
 
Thread Starter #2

350Z

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Day One (September 29th, 2013)

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Our plane landed in morning at the Incheon International Airport, which is the largest airport in South Korea and also one of the top-rated airports in the world. Despite of an exasperating twelve hour long flight via Hong Kong, we were still as energetic as ever. The first thing that I could sense upon exiting the carrier was a lovely climate and genuinely well-mannered people. Customs and immigration checks cleared without a fuss and we took an internal shuttle train to proceed towards the main exit. Here, a sweet Korean guy was waiting for us with an unmistakably distinguished bright blue “New Thinking. New Possibilities” board tucked in between his both the hands.

Since Germans had the similar time of arrival as ours, wait of a few minutes made us meet our first group of travel companions with exchange of ‘Namaste’ and ‘Guten Tag’ all around at the airport itself. The squad now boarded on Hyundai Universe Express bus to move towards the capital, Seoul. Though it’ll be much of an understatement if I simply call it a bus. Universe offered a comfort unparalleled to Volvos that I have travelled in so far. I won't mind ditching a car for it. Seriously.

The travel time from Incheon to Seoul is approximately one hour. Yet, in the midway, ride was fun. Forget roads that are beautiful already, I was more awe-struck looking at the road sense. If the speed limit is 80 Kmph, it means 80 Kmph. You cannot (and drivers do not) infringe it in South Korea. Every person is responsible enough to follow lane-driving (according to their own speed), regardless whether the next lane is vacant or not. If at all someone has to switch a lane, indicators are timely flashed.

Koreans have a strong respect for their nation and brands. So it’s not surprising to see why the country’s transportation is effectively dominated by local manufacturers, with Hyundai sitting on the throne, followed by Kia (a sub-brand of Hyundai yet its competitor. More on this later). Then there is SsangYong, a brand which was lately acquired by Indian major, Mahindra and Mahindra, after getting bankrupt. It’s also not uncommon to find Daewoo (Remember?) and Renault-Nissan cars are disguised under Samsung tag.

Japanese cars are not preferred inspite of it being a neighboring country, mainly because of expensive prices and unsettled relationship between two nations. Most vehicles, nevertheless, are Hyundais. Starting from a small segment car like Atos (Santro for us) to luxury models like Equus and even the trucks, buses, cranes! Gosh. It is no less than imagining only Tata and Mahindra cars ruling the Indian roads.

Amid all these discussions and picturesque views, I realized that we reached to the place which was going to be our abode for the next couple of days in Seoul. Hotel Conrad. Located within International Financial Center in Yeouido-dong, it has full-sized shopping mall in the basement. The hotel is not even one year old but it unarguably sets a new standard in terms of amenities and hospitality. It turned out that we, Indians and the Germans, were first two groups to check in and report for a magnificent experience called ‘Global Hyundai Club Invitation’ which now was about to begin.
 
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350Z

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The countdown begins.

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Hyundai’s representative (second from left) posing with cheerful Brazilians on airport.

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Guess what? This Italian gentleman (with thumbs up) already knew about The Automotive India. [thumbsup]

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Fantastic and a very caring team of buddies from Costa Rica and France.

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Say hello to our neighbours from China.

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A friend from Oman. He heads a gang of over 40 tastefully modified Velosters.

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That’s the beautiful and super-luxurious Hyundai Universe Noble.

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Second batch boards into the bus heading towards Seoul.

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Hotel Conrad. Our home in Seoul for two days.

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Ze Germans arrive.

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Friendly Russians.

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Mashfique from Dubai has a cool garage consisting of Range Rover, Jaguar XK and Honda S2000.

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Carol briefing about the entire plan of action while participants checked in.

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Luckily I was given the room on floor 31.

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A bird's eye view.

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Notice the road sense and respect for pedestrians in Korea.

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First things first, logged into the forum. 12+ hours is too long to resist after all.

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Korea has a fabulous weather. Decided to go for an evening walk with Indian friends.

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A statue of some legend in the park.

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Korean art.

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Thread Starter #4

350Z

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A street just outside Hotel Conrad.

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Red lane is dedicated to cyclists.

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You won’t always find roads as empty as this one. Seoul can get choked with traffic jams in peak hours but still manageable, thanks to driving sense.

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Government encourages public transport. So buses always prove to be a quicker option with their own individual lanes.

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Yup. That’s Chevrolet Spark and Hyundai Verna for us.

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Kia Soul and Forte are two of the most common cars in South Korea.

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Latest Hyundai Sonata serves as a regular taxi.

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SSangYong Chairman

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MotoScooter available for rent. Anyone?

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For viewing pleasure of Vespa fans.

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Looks familiar? It is. The previous generation Hyundai Elantra.

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All-new Hyundai Santa-Fe is scheduled to launch soon in India.

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Taurus. One of the handful of Ford cars that I could spot.

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Daewoo Lacetti a.k.a Chevrolet Cruze.

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Got a chance to check out New SsangYong Korando inside out at shopping mall.

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Bumped upon this cute and futuristic concept car (IX Metro) at Hyundai’s Café.

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Hyundai Accent is Hyundai Verna Fluidic in India.

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Korea has a strong stand against smoking in public places.

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Mercedes Benz E-Class sedan and the coupé.

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Look ma’ what I found. A one-off majestic Rolls Royce Ghost gracing the entrance of our hotel.

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Thread Starter #5

350Z

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Day Two (September 30th, 2013)

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Previous day was a long one for us and jet lag had its affect. I decided to set multiple alarms on different devices in order to be able to report on time in the morning at hotel’s lobby. This is a moment which I don’t think I’d ever forget when I saw so many cheerful faces of enthusiasts gathered from across the world under one roof. Two ladies deserve a special mention, Stephanie and Carol, who proved to be our brilliant guides all through.

Hyundai Motor Headquarter was the first target on our tour plan. Needless to say, it is office of the top brass where the company makes game changing decisions. Erected just aside is a similar building that happens to be the headquarters of Kia Motors. We headed straight towards conference hall for a briefing on Hyundai’s corporate overview, philosophy and future plan by none other than Mr. Edward Lee who was promoted as Vice President (International Sales) earlier this year after completing a very successful tenure as a CEO of Hyundai Australia. Also present on the occasion was Mr. Skyler Kim (Director) with whom I had a much informal and friendly interaction.

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Insights From Presentation:

  • Goal of Hyundai is not to become biggest carmaker, but the most loved carmaker in the world.

  • Customer, challenge, collaboration, people and globality are five core values of Hyundai brand.

  • Hyundai is not all about automobiles. They’ve established foot in various sectors including steel, construction, parts, finance, hotels etc.

  • Even though Kia is a sub-brand of Hyundai, it has different designs, markets and is considered as its rival not only outside but also within both companies.

  • The names of its concept cars reflect their birthplaces. Example: HND-7 (Hexa Space) for Namyang Design Center. HCD-12 (Curb) for California Design Center and so on.

  • BlueDrive is Hyundai’s strategy for green technology that spearheads development of low-pollution, fuel efficient cars (Eg: i10 Electric, Sonata Hybrid, Tucson FCEV etc).

  • Hyundai has spent 10% more on R&D in 2013 if compared to 2012. It has eight R&D centers worldwide: Korea (3), Beijing, Yokohama, Frankfurt, Hyderabad and Michigan.

  • Research, production, regional headquarters etc combined, Hyundai has total 11 facilities in Asia Pacific, 4 in Middle East and Africa, 16 in Europe and 10 in America.

  • Korean giant is also an active contributor in sports (motorsports, football, golf) and social causes like encouraging road safety through several campaigns worldwide.

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On way back, eyes of spectators were hooked on two cars at the atrium. Hyundai Equus and iX35 FCEV. While former doesn’t need an introduction, iX35 Fuel Cell is new talk of the town. An official was kind enough to tell us about it too then and there. Let me share some of those details:

  • This SUV relies only on hydrogen and batteries, therefore producing zero emissions.

  • The production already commenced this January. Launch will happen quite soon in European markets.

  • The car runs with help of an electric motor (Pumped by hydrogen), producing 134 BHP and 300 NM Torque.

  • Top speed is supposed to be around 159 Kmph. It can cover nearly 644 Kms on a single tank of hydrogen.

  • It’s claimed to offer as good performance as a petrol engine. But what comes out of exhaust pipe is water, not pollution.

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Thread Starter #6

350Z

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Namyang R&D Center was the next pit-stop for our team. It’s among the three R&D centers of Hyundai-Kia in South Korea. I can safely mention it as one of the most enriching visits of entire tour. This is the place where cars, trucks, buses alike are molded into reality. They’re visualized, designed, prototyped and tested by a huge workforce of 10,000 people; in an area spread over 600 acres. Ironically, mobile phones and cameras were taken well ahead of the main gate since it’s a highly confidential place and photography is strictly not allowed. I could have flooded our forum with spy shots of upcoming new cars otherwise. Literally.

Various upcoming vehicles (camouflaged, of course) were driving all around the campus as free as a bird. Some of those disguised cars include Sontata and Azera facelift as well as the next generation Genesis. We were provided a quick presentation of the center before letting us see it in depth in person. Some pointers:

  • The campus is split into 3 divisions, A, B, C. Each zone has its own function (Design, engineering, testing etc).

  • Proving ground, completed in 1995, occupies the largest amount of area and is known for its excellence.

  • 16,50,000 M2 proving ground features 34 different kinds of roads, including Belgian road and a breathtaking high-speed track.

  • Hyundai has maintained a colossal garage with 700 cars of its chief competitor brands like Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Audi etc. for comparison use.

Here’s an overview of the full process carried out at Namyang Research and Development Center for creating an all new car:

Design Center

  • Design Planning

  • Sketching and Rendering

  • ¼ Scale Modeling

  • Digital Modeling

  • Virtual Reality Presentation

  • 1:1 Scale Clay Modeling

  • Emotional Design Analysis

  • Color Design Analysis

  • Noise, Vibration, Harshness Analysis

  • Durability Analysis

  • Crash Analysis
Design Engineering

  • Body Structure Design

  • Functional & Trim Design

  • Chassis Design (Suspension, Brakes et al)

  • Package Layout & Ergonomics

  • Power train
Performance & Functional Tests

  • Hot Climatic Wind Tunnel

  • Cold Climatic Wind Tunnel

  • Snow & Rain Climatic Wind Tunnel

  • Noise, Vibration and Harshness Chamber

  • Electromagnetic Test Chamber

  • Corrosion Chamber
Driving Tests

  • High Speed Track

  • Multi-Purpose Road

  • Belgian Road

  • Low-Friction Road

  • Dust Tunnel

  • Other Condition Roads
Safety Tests

  • Computer Simulation

  • Actual Car Crash Tests

Namyang research and development center has a small museum too showcasing those cars which hold a significance to Hyundai brand, right from past to present.

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Thread Starter #7

350Z

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Having refueled ourselves with delightful lunch at Rolling Hills, it was time to head towards final and indeed, the most awaited destination of the day. Asan Plant. Hyundai Motor has total three manufacturing facilities in South Korea namely, Ulsan, the largest automobile plant in the world, laid out in an area of 5,050,000 M2 with manpower of 34,000 workers, producing 6,000 cars per day. Jeonu Plant, on the other hand, is focused on rolling out commercial vehicles that exceed capacity of 2.5 tones.

Situated just a few hours away from legendary Ulsan industrial unit is the ‘Asan’ factory, which is more or less a production hub for the export models. Unfortunately cameras were not permitted here either. Though what I witnessed was worth more capturing in the heart. It’s a robotized unit with as minimal utilization of manpower as it could get. The manner and precision through which the automated machines are designed to function is truly fascinating.

This plant has an annual capacity of 3,00,000 units and its able to fetch out one vehicle in every 40 seconds. There’s a single assembly line that rolls out different versions of Sonata and Azera alike. I’d have loved to do a separate report on this visit but since there are no relevant images for support, let’s sum up how things work at Asan.

  • Piles of sheet metal is brought together, stamped, welded and given an appropriate form.

  • The chassis is fitted with the mechanical components like engine, suspension, steering column etc.

  • The finished body is layered with different coats of paint and then coupled along with the chassis.

  • Cars now move towards the final lane. Here doors are removed and exterior is covered with plastic panels to prevent scratches.

  • Human workers finally fit the remaining electronics, interior parts, wheels etc depending upon the variant of the car model.

  • Bravo. Spanking new cars are ready. The engine is cranked for the first time and vehicle is all set for final inspection including a test drive.

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An exhilarating day concluded with a grand welcome dinner at Samwon Garden with head honchos of Hyundai Motor Corporation. Fortunately my seat was reserved in front of Mr. James Kim (Director, Asia Pacific, Africa and Middle East) who was not only patient to answer my queries but also provided superb insights on India specific strategies.

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Day Three (October 1st, 2013)

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There couldn’t be a nicer way to celebrate a new month. Our officially last day in Seoul was allocated for a tour of the capital. It comprised a visit to these two locations:

  • Changdeokgung: It’s one of the "Five Grand Palaces" built by kings of the Joseon Dynasty.

  • Shopping at Insadong: A well-known traditional market of South Korea and also an ideal place to understand local culture.

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Some shopping at Insadong.

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It’s always a pleasure to see something of homeland. Café Little India.

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Kia Ray Bi-Fuel (Petrol + LPG)

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Daewoo Damas-II Van.

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Good ol’ Hyundai Santro with Kia branding.

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Audi A4 followed by Kia Picanto and Daewoo Matiz. Besides Matiz is the New Picanto.

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Thread Starter #9

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We left for Jeju Island by air in the afternoon. At some point of time, it was also known as the ‘honeymoon’ island of the country due to its serene atmosphere and scenic views. However, it has now become a famous tourist hot-spot for families due to the same reason. Jeju is a fairly big island and is identified for its dormant volcano (which erupted approx. 800 Years ago) as well as for its attractive orange fields. Hotel Haevichi was our lodge on the island. This hotel is a five star property owned by Hyundai. Even those who didn’t know, the fact will become evident as soon as you see a pristine Santa-Fe and Sonata showcased straight in front of the entrance.

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Thread Starter #10

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Day Four (October 2nd, 2013)

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Before someone could even realize, it was dawn of the final day of “Global Hyundai Club Invitation” expedition. Hyundai had stored in two interesting activities for us:

  • Yacht Tour

  • Test Drive

Available for test drive were Genesis sedan, i40 and Veloster. We although picked Veloster but unfortunate part was that many participants could not drive (including me) due to Korean policies that mandate an international driving license for foreigners. But it didn’t stop us from being a co-driver and revving up for the sake of satisfying ourselves.

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Thread Starter #13

350Z

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This was our last night in South Korea. So it ought to be a rocking one. No questions, it indeed was with a royal farewell dinner followed by karaoke bash till late night. This time turned out to be the most touching moment for all with everyone hugging each other and exchanging their contact details to stay in touch. That was amazing sight of how people from different nations can come together and form one big happy family. This event has truly set an example of uniting people by their passion. I can write a whole book on this experience but anyways a genuine round of applause to Hyundai for bringing the world closer. These memories are going to be cherished forever. You bet.

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We came from different countries but ended up like from one. It was time to bid adieu with a hope to meet again sometime soon for another unforgettable experience.

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Korean driving sense. Something worth taking a lesson for Indians.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RK8g5swhHfQ

Mr.Skyler Kim singing on the tune of “Take me Home” at Karaoke night. :smile:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2NtucBKRtY

Participants indulging in the Korean atmosphere with “Gangnam Style”.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DM6za4sASmw

During the drive of Hyundai Veloster.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YNk1WrekGY

Revving up the Hyundai Veloster.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEe6qIVIcnc

Presentation from Hyundai Motors Asan Plant.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8Az0TJn0fw

Virtual visit of Hyundai Motors’ Asan Plant.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6fZiB-xMHA

Disclaimer: All expenses for this event were covered by Hyundai Motor Corporation. Note that some images are courtesy of Hyundai while the rest were clicked by me.

© TheAutomotiveIndia.com. Any attempt to republish the text or pictures anyway without prior consent of our authorities is strictly forbidden.​
 
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