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South Korea (2012)

Source: REEEP Policy Database (contributed by SERN for REEEP)

This policy & regulatory overview is not updated anymore since 2015. We decided to keep it online due to high demand but would like to make you aware of the fact that it might be outdated.

Energy sources

Electricity generation (2009, source: Korea Power Exchange): 73,470 MW
Thermal (oil, coal and natural gas): 64.6%
Nuclear: 24.1%
Hydroelectric: 7.5%
Others (including renewable and community energy sources): 3.7%

Total Primary Energy Supply (2009): 232 Mtoe
Oil: 40.1%
Coal and Peat: 27.9%
Nuclear  & hydro: 18.3%
Natural Gas: 13.7%

Korea’s electricity generation in 2009 was 454.5 terawatt-hours, a 1.81% increase from 2008. Generation by thermal sources, including coal, oil and natural gas, accounted for 65.7% of the total electricity generated, followed by nuclear at 32.5%, and hydro at 1.2%.  Korea’s total primary energy supply increased more than sixfold between 1980 and 2009, from 38.32 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 1980 to 232 Mtoe in 2009. In particular, from 1990 to 2000, energy supply increased at an annual average rate of 7.33%, far exceeding the economic growth rate of 6.2% for the same period. Likewise, per capita primary energy supply grew from 1.0 tonne of oil equivalent in 1980 to 4.76 tonnes of oil equivalent in 2009. The level of increase was similar to that of Japan and of most European economies.

Renewable energy represented 2.7%of the domestic energy use in 2008. The Korean Government wants to increase this to 11% by 2030.
Oil supply in 2009 was 93.3 Mtoe, a 1.21% increase from the previous year. In 2009, the economy imported about 85% of its crude oil from the Middle East. Coal supply in 2009 totalled 64.7 Mtoe, a 3.83% increase from the previous year. This substantial increase was the result of a strong demand from the power sector for coal, due to its cost competitiveness compared to other fuels.
 

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Reliance

Korea has no oil resources, and only 326 million tonnes of recoverable coal reserves, and 3 billion cubic metres of natural gas. To sustain its high level of economic growth, Korea imports large quantities of energy products. Total energy imports in 2008 came to 240,067 ktoe, 49.5% of which was crude oil, 25.6% of which was coal, 13.9% of which was natural gas, and 11.0% of which was refined oil products.  Korea imported around 87% of its total energy needs in 2009, including all of its oil and gas requirements and 98% of its coal supply. The cost of Korea’s energy imports was USD 91.2 billion in 2009 (it was USD 141,575 billion in 2008). Energy imports accounted for 28.2% of Korea’s total import value in 2009.

The bulk of Korea’s LNG imports come from Qatar, Indonesia, Oman, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. Korea is the world’s second-largest importer of both steam and coking coal after Japan. Coal imports come from China, Australia, Indonesia, Canada, Russia and the United States.

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Extend network

Electrification rate (2004): 100%

Transmission in the country operates in a combination of 765 kV and 345 kV lines to the major distribution networks, and 154/66 kV in the distribution networks themselves.

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Capacity concerns

Energy supply and demand structure has long been overly dependent on imported oil. With limited natural resources, energy imports have risen, rising to 105.7% of TPES in 2008. In addition, the lack of conventional fuel resources has led to significant development in nuclear power, which is both expensive, and considered by many to be unsafe. Power consumption is expected to rise at 2.5% per annum from 2010 onwards, slowing from the 9% seen on average from 1990-2006. 16.1 TWh of electricity were lost in transmission or distribution in 2008, approximately 4% of the total.

To rectify an energy supply and demand structure that is overly dependent on oil, the construction of oil-fired power plants was strictly controlled and the development of nuclear, coal, and natural gas electricity generation units was promoted. Gas-fired power plants were first introduced in 1986. During the period of the Fourth Basic Plan, 12 nuclear-energy power plants, seven coal-fired power plants, and 11 gas-fired power plants are planned for construction. Korea has been building nuclear-energy power plants since the 1970s. Nuclear energy is a strategic priority for the Korean Government, and its share of the total electricity production capacity is projected to increase to 32.6% in 2022.

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Renewable energy

Solar energy
The southern coastal area has the greatest economic potential for solar thermal, which can be used in greenhouses, fish farms, swimming pools and industrial heat processes.

The solar sector went through a phase of remarkable growth in 2008, raising its contribution by 271.8% over the previous year and finishing the 12-month period with 264 GWh generated. The reason for this growth is the connection of 276.3 MWp to the grid during 2008. Grid-connected solar PV in 2009 totalled 430 MW.

Wind energy
The south-east of Korea is a good location for offshore wind farms. Wind power is by far and away the most prominent sector as electricity production has been increasing an average of 69% per annum, generating 381 GWh.  South Korea has over a dozen of wind farms, both on- and off-shore. Current installed capacity amounts to approximately 348 MW, with significant potential for the development of further off-shore sites..  The country’s ambitions for wind power are for it to be producing 2,250 MW by 2012. The testing phase for a proposed 2.5 GW off-shore wind farm will commence by 2013, with 20 5 MW turbines being installed, with an aim to reach full capacity by 2019.

Tidal energy
Some parts of the sea around Korea are regarded as ideal spots for the tidal farms to create electricity, because of the huge differences in height between high and low tide, which causes fast tidewater speeds. Two Korean companies, POSCO and Korea South East Power Co., Ltd. have entered into a partnership for the development of tidal and wind technologies. Construction was completed in 2011 of the Lake Sihwa tidal power station, the world’s largest at 254 MW.

Biomass
Electricity production from biomass systems increased sharply over the past two years (up 71.4% between 2006 and 2007 and up 38.3% between 2007 and 2008) to generate 4 GWh, making biomass the 2nd most prolific renewable resource in the country after hydroelectricity. Development of the technology in the country is occurring rapidly, with 4,000 residential boilers capable of using biomass pellets installed as of 2010, and the country’s first biomass power cogeneration facility projected to come online in the second quarter of 2012, at Donghae. Imported biomass pellets from Canada and Indonesia make up the majority of supply currently.

Hydropower
Hydroelectricity is the country’s top renewable source with 5,6 TWh produced in 2008 (1,2% o the total).  The pumped storage share increased sharply in 2008 (44.8%) as a result of an increase of over 1 TWh produced by this type of power plant. It has been estimated that South Korea has a small-scale hydro potential of up to 1.5GW, and that 198MW could be generated by 2012. Installed capacity represents less than 5% of the domestic potential, indicating significant untapped resources. Five small hydroelectric plants are currently in the project pipeline, as part of the Four Rivers project.

Geothermal
Geothermal heat pumps are found in over 700 locations throughout the country, and are typically in the 300 to 100 kW size for a total of over 3,000 units. The geothermal resource of the country is insufficient for electricity generation, but current installed thermal capacity amounts to 229.3 MW.

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Energy efficiency

The new targets set under the Green Growth Plan to enhance efficiency from 0.290 TOE/US$’000 in 2013 and to 0.233 TOE/US$’ 000 in 2020 appear to be an improvement on the targets in the General Energy Conservation and Efficiency Improvement Plan adopted in 2004. In comparative terms, however, energy intensity remains slightly above that of most IEA member countries. Per capita consumption of electricity rose to 7,700 kWh in 2007, with 4.67 ktoe of primary energy per capita in 2008. Industry in the country is typically quite energy-intensive, with a high proportion of manufacturing and high-tech industries. This is reflected in the energy consumption of the industrial sector, which accounted for 29.3% of the total final energy consumption in 2008.

Industry

  • Energy use reduction target of 17 Mtoe by 2030.
  • Mandatory energy audits every 5 years for large consumers, with subsidies available for the involved costs.

Utilities

  • 11% renewable energy contribution target by 2030.
  • Promotion of combined-cycle thermal plants.

Transport

  • 19% energy use reduction goal in the sector by 2030.
  • Extensive minimum vehicle fuel economy standards, applicable to all new vehicles produced in the country.

Residential

  • Energy efficiency standards and labelling programmes for 7 appliance categories (electric refrigerators, A/C, incandescent bulbs, FLs, self ballasted lamps, ballast for FLs and passenger cars).
  • EE Certification (voluntary) for office equipment and home electrical appliances.
  • Voluntary building energy efficiency certification programmes.
  • Implementation of LED lighting schemes.

Public

  • Government investment in RE and EE R&D projects.
  • Increased renewable energy use in public buildings.
  • Installation of prototype LED street lighting.
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Ownership

Electricity market
In January 2009, in a move to introduce competition, the Government announced the Basic Plan for Restructuring the Electricity Industry, which included unbundling and privatization of Korea’s state-owned electricity monopoly, the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO, www.kepco.co.kr/eng/). Part of the plan has been implemented, including the establishment of the Korea Power Exchange (http://www.kpx.or.kr/english/) and the Korea Power Commission in April 2001. The power generation part of KEPCO was split into six wholly-owned companies (five thermal generation companies, serving geographically-determined regions, and the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., LTD, http://www.khnp.co.kr/en/). The five thermal generation companies that split from KEPCO were to be privatized in stages. However, in July 2008, the Government announced that there would be no further privatization of KEPCO and its five subsidiaries. At the end of 2009, 51% of KEPCO (as a holding company) was owned by the Korean Government.

Liquid Fuels market
The Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC, www.knoc.co.kr/ENG/) has been exploring and developing oil and gas locally and abroad to improve energy security. To encourage private companies to invest in development projects overseas, the Korean Government has expanded its policy of supplying long-term low-interest loans through the Special Account of Energy and Resources. At the end of February 2009, KNOC had equity stakes in 46 exploration and production projects in 17 economies, including Indonesia, Vietnam, Yemen, Nigeria, the United States and Peru.

Gas market
The Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS, http://www.kogas.or.kr/kogas_eng/html/main/main.jsp) has a monopoly over Korea’s natural gas industry, including the import, storage, transport and wholesale businesses. Thirty city gas companies operate the gas retail business in each region. Not only is KOGAS the world’s largest LNG importer; it also develops natural gas resources in economies such as Australia, Uzbekistan and Nigeria.

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Competition

KEPCO is still a dominant player in the electricity sector, controlling 94% of total power generation and 100% of transmission/distribution in Korea. Generation has been unbundled into six separate companies, however, they are all still owned in entirety by KEPCO. 68 other companies account for the remaining 6% of installed capacity, selling to the sole buyer, KEPCO, through the Korean Power Exchange.

KNOC holds a majority stake in the upstream sector of the country. The downstream sector is home to several large international oil companies including SK Energy, which has a roughly 34 percent share of the petroleum product market (excluding LPGs). Other companies involved in the downstream sector include GS Caltex, S-Oil, and Hyundai Oilbank. These corporations have historically focused on refining, but some have put increasing emphasis on crude extraction projects in other countries. SK Energy also owns the largest stake in the Daehan Oil Pipeline Corporation (DOPCO), which exclusively owns and manages Korea’s oil pipelines, although most of the country’s oil is distributed in tankers or tank trucks.

KOGAS is a state-owned company, and holds a monopoly on all natural gas activities in the country.

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Energy framework

In September 2008, Korea announced a long-term strategy that will determine the direction of its energy policy to 2030. The plan’s long-term energy goals are to:

  • Improve energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption. By 2030, Korea will reduce its energy intensity by 46%, from 341 toe/USD million to 185 toe/USD million. This is expected to result in energy savings of 42 million toe.
  • Increase the supply of clean energy and reduce the use of fossil fuels. By 2030, the share of renewable energy in total primary energy will reach 11% from 2.4% in 2007.
  • Boost the green energy industry. By 2030, Korea’s green energy technologies will be comparable to levels of most advanced economies.
  • Ensure that citizens have access to affordable energy. The government will ensure that energy sources are accessible and affordable to low-income households


Low Carbon, Green Growth
On 15 August 2008, Low Carbon, Green Growth was proclaimed as Korea’s new vision. This vision aims to shift the current development model of fossil-fuel dependent growth to an environmentally friendly one. To realize this vision, the Presidential Commission on Green Growth was established in February 2009. The Basic Act on Low Carbon and Green Growth was subsequently submitted and is now pending in congress. This legislation will provide the legal and institutional basis for green growth. To implement the vision of green growth more effectively, the National Strategy for Green Growth was adopted along with the Five-Year Plan for Green Growth in June 2009. The National Strategy for Green Growth is to build a comprehensive, long-term (2009–2050) master plan to address challenges caused by climate change and resource depletion. It consists of three main objectives and 10 policy directions, including:

  • reduction in the use of fossil fuels and the enhancement of energy independence
  • strengthening the capacity to adapt to climate change
  • mitigation of climate change and achievement of energy independence
  • effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.


South Korea already has FITs in place for wind and solar power; however, from 2012 these will be replaced by a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), approved by the South Korean Assembly in March 2010. This RPS will require the 14 power utilities with capacities exceeding 500 MW in the country to generate 4% of energy from renewable sources by 2015, increasing to 10% by 2022. Effective as of 2012, this program will mandate an additional 350 MW/year of renewable energy capacity until 2016, and 700 MW/year thereafter. In addition to this, all RE technologies receive a 5% tax credit, and in 2009, import duties were halved on all components/equipment used in RE power plants. Government subsidies are also available to local governments of up to 60% for the installation of renewable facilities, as well as offering low interest loans (5.5%-7.5%) to RE projects, including a 5-year grace period followed by a 10-year repayment period.

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Energy debates

Investment in solar power generation equipment has declined precipitously. The net capacity declined from 275.7 MW in 2008 to 72.5 MW in 2009. This is due to cuts in subsidies to pay the difference in power generation costs. The Ministry of Knowledge Economy enacted measures in April 2009 to reduce the subsidies for renewable energy sources such as solar energy, limiting the subsidy coverage to 50 MW in 2009, 70 MW in 2010 and 80 MW in 2011. Photovoltaic Energy Producers Association Vice Chairman Jeong Dong-il said because of the subsidy cuts, small-scale producers who have led the way in the domestic solar power industry, equipment firms and builders have taken a major hit.

Nuclear power development has also progressed in the country lately. KHNP plans to complete 18 nuclear power plants by 2030 at a cost of 40 - 50 trillion won ($32 to 40 billion), to provide 59% of the country's electricity.  This target was endorsed by the Prime Minister in March 2010.  In December 2010 the Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) projected 14 new nuclear reactors on line by 2024, to provide almost half of the country's electricity.

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Energy studies

In an effort to have a low-carbon economy, Korea is actively participating in the post-Kyoto international dialogue and norm-building for climate change and RE. The dialogues in which Korea is active are the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy, Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, and International Energy Agency/Committee on Energy Research and Technology. Korea is giving serious consideration to joining the International Renewable Energy Agency, which is led by Germany. In addition, to properly gauge Korea’s role in reducing CO2 emissions, Korea seeks to cooperate with similarly positioned countries such as Switzerland and Mexico to form a common position toward climate change negotiations. In relations with developing countries, Korea is incorporating the Clean Development Mechanism into its overseas investment and foreign aid.

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Role of government

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE, http://www.mke.go.kr/language/eng/) is responsible for developing and implementing energy policies and programs, administering the energy industry, supporting research and development of new energy technologies and formulating international cooperation on energy-related matters. MKE was established in 2008 by merging the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy with elements of the Ministry of Information and Communications, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Ministry of Finance and Economy, with the aim of creating an enhanced Government instrument capable of meeting the new challenges of the twenty-first century.

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Government agencies

Public research institutes support ministries with analysis and development of energy policy measures, including:

  • Korea Energy Economics Institute (KEEI, http://www.keei.re.kr/main.nsf/index_en.html) – KEEI’s activities include the modeling and forecasting of energy trends to support the development of National Energy Plans and Energy Policy. It deals with the electricity and gas sectors, and has teams specializing in CHP and renewable energy.
  • Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER, www.kier.re.kr/open_content/eng/main_page.jsp) – KIER tests new energy technologies as part of the certification process of the Government.
  • Korea Energy Management Corporation (KEMCO, www.kemco.or.kr/eng/) – KEMCO is responsible for collecting data on the energy sector, as well as developing energy policy. This includes district heating and CHP.
  • Korea Energy Statistical Information System (KESIS, http://www.kesis.net/index.jsp) – KESIS is responsible for providing statistical information to the government on all aspects of the national energy sector.


Key environmental policy decisions are made by the Environmental Preservation Committee. This committee is chaired by the Prime Minister and includes the Ministry of Environment and other ministries as appropriate. Other public affiliate bodies of the Ministry of Environment are the National Institution of Environmental Research and the Korean Institute of Environmental Science and Technology.

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Energy procedure

The Government has allocated around US$14.2 billion for an initiative to improve energy efficiency by 11.3% by 2012 compared with 2007, and save 34 Mtoe. It is part of Korea’s long-term energy plan, announced in August 2008, aiming to achieve a 4.6% annual EE improvement by 2030. To meet the target, the Government will phase out incandescent lamps by 2013, provide incentives for companies to invest in EE and implement a program modeled on Japan’s Top Runner Program to complement the current Energy Efficiency Label and Standard Program. Other actions will also be taken:
1. The Government will invest approximately US$930 million in seven core technologies; building energy management systems, electric power IT, energy storage, green vehicles, LEDs, technologies to improve the efficiency of the most energy-intensive appliances, and green home appliances.
2. By 2012, average fuel economy for automobiles will be improved by 16.5%. Fuel economy for engine sizes below 1.5 litres (L) will be improved from 12.4 km/L (29 miles per gallon (mpg) US) to 14.4 km/L (33.9 mpg); engine sizes above 1.5 L will be improved from 9.6 km/L (22.6 mpg) to 11.2 km/L (26.3 mpg).
3. For buildings with the highest level of EE (grade 1), the Government will increase the maximum floor area ratio by 6%.
4. When purchasing appliances for use in Government buildings, the Government will give preference to models with grade 1 energy efficiency label and less than 1 watt of standby power.
5. To encourage businesses to improve EE, the Government will divide businesses into four categories according to consumption. Measures such as negotiated and voluntary agreements will be introduced for each category.

In January 2009, the Korean Government announced a renewable energy plan, under which RES will account for a steadily increasing share of the energy mix to 2030.  The plan covers investment, technology development, infrastructure, and programs to promote renewable energy. RES will account for 4.3%, 6.1% and 11% of the energy mix in 2015, 2020 and 2030 respectively—a significant increase from the 2007 share of 2.4%. According to this initiative, the Government will:

  • Allocate funds and attract investment to increase the use of RES. The initiative will cost KRW 111.5 trillion (about US$85.8 billion) between now and 2030, of which nearly a third will come from the Government. Of that amount, KRW 100 trillion (US$76.9 billion) has been allocated to promote renewable energy and KRW 11.5 trillion (US$8.8 billion) will be used to develop green technologies. After 2020, when RES have become more economically viable, the proportion of private investment will increase.
  • Support the development of green technologies to make renewable energy more cost effective. The Government will introduce a renewable portfolio standard in 2012, support the construction of 1 million ‘green homes’ between 2009 and 2020, and provide incentives for wider use of RES in new and renovated buildings. The Government will also strengthen the role of local authorities in encouraging use of RES.
  • Improve infrastructure for RE. Measures will take the form of a RE investment fund; amendment of any regulations hindering the transition to RE, promotional efforts to raise  awareness of RE benefits, a classification system which conforms to that used by the International Energy Agency to facilitate more effective analysis of statistics; and programs to foster technical professionals with the necessary expertise.


In July 2009, the country adopted a Five-Year Plan for Green Growth (2009/2013) to serve as a medium-term plan for implementing the “low-carbon, green growth vision” announced a year earlier. On December 30, 2009, South Korea’s National Assembly adopted the Basic Law on Low Carbon and Green Growth, which President Lee Myung-Bak signed into law on January 13, 2010. As anticipated, the legislation targets spending 2% of the country’s GDP annually to stimulate green businesses and projects, encourages programs to mitigate GHG emissions, and delegates its implementation to several key Governmental ministries.

In 2011, the Government instituted mandatory energy provision from RES figures for all new or renovated public buildings from April. The obligation ratio will be enhanced gradually from 10% in 2011 to 20% in 2020, and the area will be reinforced with the standard of 1,000 square meters in 2012.

R&D Plan to Nurture the Green Industry
As part of its efforts to become one of the world’s top-five green energy powerhouses by 2020, Korea intends to double its budget for energy R&D between now and then. Under a plan announced in November 2011, Korea will strengthen its core technology in the area of green energy and secure 10% of the global market. Technology development and R&D carried out under the plan will affect a 12% increase in energy efficiency and account for half the reduction in emissions needed for Korea to meet its 2020 target of 30% below the business-as-usual level.

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Energy regulator

Korea Electricity Commission (www.korec.go.kr) is the organization responsible for regulation of the electricity sector. It was established on April 27, 2001 to ensure a smooth transition to a competitive electricity market and a continuously well functioning market. It consists of experts and representatives from various fields and provides the necessary administrative services.

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Degree of independence

The Committee consists of 1 chairman and 8 members, with one permanent member. Members, including the chairman, are nominated by the MKE, and appointed by the President. There are five expert commissions that consist of 42 members. The Chairman of the Committee appoints the Members. The secretariat consists of one bureau and five divisions.

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Regulatory framework

The Electricity Business Act 2000 assigns ultimate regulatory responsibility to the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy. The Act provided for the creation of KOREC to be the regulatory body within MOCIE, now the MKE,, primarily to “deliberate and resolve” the key regulatory functions of the minister before final approval is granted.

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Regulatory roles

KOREC:
- Implements necessary standards and measures for electricity market operation, and reviews matters related to licensing electric companies;
- Acts as an arbitrator when necessary in disputes that involve electricity companies and consumers;
- Investigates deceptive and illegal business activities of market participants to protect consumers;
- Follows through the restructuring of the electric power industry, which has currently been paused.

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Energy regulation role

KOREC was established as a division of the MOCIE, now the MKE. As such the MKE has full legal authority to reject or overrule the decisions of KOREC, and direct the policy- and decision-making processes of the Commission, although it has never done so.

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Regulatory barriers

KOREC is still operating as a division of the MKE, although with full operational autonomy. The managerial structure of the Commission is determined by the Government. South Korea has traditionally had a strong framework for sustainable energy uptake, as evidenced by the successful feed-in tariff scheme in the 2000s, and it is hoped the new Renewable Portfolio Standard will continue to build capacity in line with government targets.

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References

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