Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How to Pull a Midnight-Run

Here's the question:

Will immigration stop you if you leave the country early from your school in South Korea? My brother wants to leave, but he's worried he would get stopped at the airport. Can they do that?


Easy one here. No they can not. Immigration has no right or authority to forbid anyone from leaving the country so long as they have not committed a crime worthy of detention. If he wants to leave because he is unhappy, then there is nothing (besides guilt from quitting) stopping him in the least. As I have said before, I don't like it when people bail early. It's disrespectful to your employer and to your fellow teachers.

Of course, the situation could be really horrible and I understand that he might might need to bail. If that's the case and he doesn't want to tell his employers, then a silent midnight-run is what he needs.

For a successful midnight-run:

Don't tell anyone!

This means that you shouldn't even tell your close friends or co-workers. Oftentimes, co-workers will be angry at you because it will increase their workload. If they know you're thinking about it, they might try to lay it on thick or tell the school about your plans.

Leave a note with enough money to pay for your utilities

Even though the school is out some cash because of you, they will still want to make sure you're not dead or hurt. If you leave a note explaining your decision, they will appreciate the effort (even if they are angry about your decision). You should also leave 50 bucks or so alongside the note. The school should not have to pay YOUR utility bills.

Clean your apartment

If you leave your place trashed or intentionally trash it before you go, then the school might get on the horn claiming that you are a criminal and damaged the apartment intentionally. Clean it up. Do the dishes. Wash the sheets. It's the least you can do.

Make sure you get what you earned

I know some people might not like this one, but things happen in life and situations change. Make sure you get your paycheck before pulling a run. You earned it, so why not collect? Don't, however, be a total dick and get your paycheck, plus a payment advance and THEN bail. That's low.

Leave as late at night or early in the morning as possible

This is crucial. You never know what's going to happen with weather, so do yourself a favor and be on the plane and en route to your home country BEFORE your employer discovers your gone. Buy your bus ticket to the airport early. If you live outside of Seoul, consider heading to Incheon the night before and, if you can't get a late night flight, then stay in a cheap motel and catch the first flight out.

If you follow those steps, then you should have no problem getting out of the country with relative ease. Now, what if your school is holding your diploma? Get it back. What about your pension? In most situations, it could be difficult to get it, but there's no reason not to try. Check out my post on pension collection for more on that.

Pulling a midnight-run is a low move, but sometimes it's what you gotta do. I hope that this particular case is more of the "I have a family emergency" kind, rather than the "I don't like teaching" excuse. Either way, be safe.

67 comments:

Anonymous said...

we had to leave and we were detained by immigration until our employer gave a verbal release at the airport! (We did leave everything clean.)

The Expat said...

Wow! I'm totally shocked by that. I know many people who bailed with no release of any kind. May I ask when you left?

Alex said...

I can't imagine being stopped at the airport for breaking a work contract, but I'm not on that kind of visa, so that's not to say it isn't a possibility.

Reading through your suggestions (cleaning, bills, etc.), I still can't come to see it as a legitimate option unless in a true emergency, and I don't consider "culture shock" to be an emergency unless you're clinically depressed or about to go nuts.

The right thing to do is give notice between two weeks and a month. Ideally, you'd stay on until they could get a teacher to replace you. It's not just about the teacher and the school. You've got to consider the students also, as well as the overall image of all the rest of us expats. Unfortunately, we're all ambassadors.

Anonymous said...

Ignore the first comment. If the story is true (which I doubt), the Immigration officer was lying.

The right to move at will is a constitutional right in South Korea.

The Expat said...

You are right, Alex. There is no legitimate excuse to bail. I mentioned that on the linked post in the main article. All too often, people think that teaching here is just for fun as I get questions where people casually mention they'll be leaving after 6 months. This is not summer camp. This is a job and this is life. Treat it as such.

Anonymous said...

There are several legitimate reasons for leaving a contract, I won't post them on an open forum. We were detained by immigration at Incheon.

The Expat said...

I would like to hear them. Outside of a family emergency or not getting paid, I'm having a hard time coming up with a list.

Anonymous said...

I also can't believe that an immigration officer can detain you under that circumstance. How long were you detained? And what was the outcome?

The Expat said...

What if the recruiter had said 'no'? Would you have been escorted back to your hagwon/apartment and detained? There's more to this story. People literally leave without notice ALL THE TIME.

grubstreethack said...

Theoretically, if you leave before the six month mark without reimbursing your airfare, couldn't they detain you because you owe the school money?

The Expat said...

I'm settling this right now.

While your visa is technically sponsored by your employer, the nuances of the contract are completely unknown to Immigration. All they know is that you were sponsored and legally allowed to enter the country on a working visa.

I think the framing of this issue has been hijacked by one ignorant posted who has seomthing to gain/lose. Let's put it this way (and I say this because I know Anon 1 and 6 are full of it):

I start working in August. Come December I have two weeks vacation, so a few friends and I decide to go to China for vacation. We buy our tickets and go through Immigration. They don't stop us. Why? They have no reason to stop us from leaving the country. We're not criminals. Do they ask us why we're leaving? Of course not. We're going on vacation. They don't care. There is nothing to stop us. An E2 visa is not a prison sentence. It is access to the country, not a jail sentence.

We have all left the country on vacation WITHOUT permission from our employer. This premise of this entire debate is absurd.

Let me say very clearly: You will not be stopped by Immigration if you leave the country before your contract/visa expires!

daeguowl said...

"Let me say very clearly: You will not be stopped by Immigration if you leave the country before your contract/visa expires!"

Provided you have a re-entry permit...

The Expat said...

Daeguowl

Huh, never thought about that, but I think you're right if I have a return ticket. I guess they would let me leave if I had a one way ticket though.

grubstreethack said...

I know a guy who recently pulled a midnigh run and did indeed get detained for about an hour by immigration before they eventually let him go... I guess they may not be able to stop you, but they can certainly hassle you.

The Expat said...

I'm sure there are come douchey officers out there, but the point is that, legally, they can't forbid free movement to and from the peninsula.

John from Daejeon said...

You could always take the ferry to Japan and leave from there if you are really worried, but I've never had any problems leaving the airport as long as I've had that re-entry permit. They've never even asked to see my plane tickets verifying my return. Then again, I usually travel pretty well dressed and look like a business traveller.

The Expat said...

John:

Does the re-entry permit system work the same with the ferry? If you don't get one before you leave, will you have a big problem obtaining one while trying to return?

John from Daejeon said...

Yes, since you are leaving the country and either going to Japan or China.

This is from the Daejeon Immigration website: "A foreign national who, during his period of sojourn leaves Korea to return before the period of sojourn has expired, that foreign national must have a Re-Entry Permit . A foreigner who leaves Korea without having obtained a Re-Entry Permit will, while overseas, have to get a new entry visa and, after returning, go through the process of alien registration all over again if he intends to stay for 91 days or more. A foreigner who enters Korea with a multiple visa may leave Korea and return a limitless number of times during his period of sojourn without needing an additional Re-Entry Permit.

There are two types of Re-Entry Permit; Multiple Re-Entry Permits , which allows one to leave and return numerous times, and Single Re-Entry Permits , which may only be used once. Apply for Re-Entry Permits at the Immigration Office in your area. One may apply for a Re-Entry Permit at the airport Immigration Offices at Incheon and Gimhae, but you can only receive a Re-Entry Permit this way once."

"Passport and Alien Registration Card, approval or recommendation from head of training company in the case of Industrial Trainees, and fee of 30,000won for Single Re-Entry, 50,000won for Multiple Re-Entry."

For any newbies coming to teach, or those renewing their contracts, it is definitely beneficial to make sure you have that multiple entry visa/permit.

The Expat said...

As an American, I should add that when I first arrived here, I automatically was given a multiple entrance visa, however, when I renewed my E2 (before making the switch the the "dirty visa", i.e. F2), I was not on a multiple.

"A foreigner who leaves Korea without having obtained a Re-Entry Permit will, while overseas, have to get a new entry visa and, after returning, go through the process of alien registration all over again if he intends to stay for 91 days or more."

This one is a little unclear to me. If an E2 left and wasn't told that he/she didn't have a re-entry, then they'd be forbidden to finish out their contract and visa? It essentially nullifies the visa then?

John from Daejeon said...

"It essentially nullifies the visa then?"

Exactly; however, the immigration officers at the airport are usually quick to point this out to would be offenders before they leave, and they can buy a re-entry permit right there at the airport. This might be were some of the 'midnight runners' are questioned and become unglued/nervous when probably the officers are just curious about their intentions. Also, your ARC card is supposed to be surrendered upon the end of your contract at the airport if it hasn't been renewed at immigration and a re-entry permit granted/bought. I hear/read that fines can be imposed if you don't have it with you at your time of departure.

Personally, I've never been to the immigration office here in town as my boss takes care of it with only my documents, but in order to save a little won he did get me the single entry visa the first time my contract was renewed, but he could have gotten a multiple one for 20,000 more.

The Expat said...

I dealt with the same thing when I tried to go on vacation a few years ago. If they hadn't noticed it (and since I -perhaps foolishly- assumed I was still on a multiple), I would have been turned back, but to where and at whose expense.

There's got to be a better system in place, no?

John from Daejeon said...

Sadly, it is, what it is, but it is similar to other countries as well, and it is at "your" expense.

It is called "self-deportation," either through lack of knowledge or a pressing situation that calls for you to leave without the proper re-entry permits or visa. In the U.S., a lot of people adjusting status from immigrant to permanent resident are not supposed to leave until the change in status has been approved, but due to deaths back in their native country (or other issues) they sometimes deport themselves by leaving the country and have a mess to sort out if the "can" eventually return. It is just a real pain, and expense, to start and go through the entire process again.

I think that the immigration services in each country believe that everyone is a lawyer and can find the fine print and then be able to understand it as it is basically a series of laws in the first place. Sort of like understanding the tax code.

Anonymous said...

How should I handle the money in my account if I'm leaving the day after I get paid? Don't Korean banks close at 4:20, and if I ask to leave work early, wouldn't I raise suspicion?

kushibo said...

I didn't see it in any of the comments, so I'll address it here.

Unless the law has changed since I last checked into this a few years back (around 2005), the employer with whom you were contracted for a given period of time (e.g., one year) could block you (through non-release of contract) from getting a work visa at any other place (at least of a similar business) during the remaining period of your contract.

If this is still the case, then midnight runners who are planning to go work somewhere else might be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Anyway, The Expat, I look forward to your next piece, which I'm sure will start this way: "Drug consumption is illegal in Korea and you shouldn't do it. Here's how to get drugs."

;)

John from Daejeon said...

Anon. -- ATM withdrawal, or delaying your run until you can withdraw the full amoount in person which could also set off some bells and whistles depending on how close your boss is with the bank.

kushibo -- I'm pretty sure these runners won't be returning anytime soon, if ever.

kushibo said...

John from Taejŏn wrote:
kushibo -- I'm pretty sure these runners won't be returning anytime soon, if ever.

Respectfully, I beg to differ. Most of the "midnight runners" I've known personally were people who were trying to escape their hagwon, not escape Korea. In fact, many had other jobs lined up or were certain that they would easily have jobs lined up later on. IOW, they had every intention of returning to work in Korea.

Even those who felt compelled to leave for reasons for which their boss would not give them time off, were usually planning to come back when whatever family emergency or other compelling event was over or resolved.

I've had to deal with midnight runners who were doing secondary work with us, and we were really screwed when they left, especially since they were telling us, "Oh, yeah, I'll see you Friday at 10 a.m." the day or two before they left.

One such person, probably back in 2002, was emailing me a few months later asking how she could get a new visa. I told her to try Japan.

Anonymous said...

Ok guys , so if i get a reentry permit before leaving south korea and doing a midnight run they wont question me right? Ill just say ill be buying my ticket back in my home country ....

John from Daejeon said...

A., if things are that bad, just create a good reason for your leaving--death in the family, hospitalization, etc. Having an accomplice back home to answer the phone and verify your tale of woe might help make it even more believable if you are truly desperate.

Leave a note explaining all this to your boss in your apartment that a questioning immigration officer could then verify if needed. Otherwise, just man up, and tell them you feel trapped by the situation and are leaving before and international incident has the chance of occurring.

Anonymous said...

yeah but why not just get a re entry permit and avoid all the hassle and stress?

The Expat said...

The re-entry is not a free-pass to a simple exit, especially when you don't have a return ticket, but I pretty much agree that it will lower your chances of being hassled.

Anonymous said...

what if i just say i quit if the immigration officers ask why i am leaving. will they check with my employer before letting me go? or should i say its a family emergency? ive heard both worked for some people before, or should i just get a re entry permit? will immigration call my employer to check if i have vacation time?

The Expat said...

Not having a re-entry permit will look suspicious just like not having a return ticket will look suspicious as well. Saying "you quit" is fine as long as you have given your boss a heads up, but if you haven't then it could lead to come problems.

Family emergency is always pretty solid, but again, you've got the issue of NOT having a return ticket. The best way to combat that would be to say that you're not sure when you'll be returning.

Of course -and as many have said here- just do the right thing and tell your employer. This way they'll cancel your visa and you'll be able to exit easily.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

ah yes do the right thing for the same people screwing you over! what a great 2 way street. way to censor comments too .

The Expat said...

If you don't add something constructive to the comments I will continue to remove your posts.

Anonymous said...

you board nazi scumbag

The Expat said...

Good one. Perhaps you don't understand what "constructive" means? For instance, it would be constructive if you fucked off. Got it?

Anonymous said...

fuck you retard. yeah its real constructive to suggest giving a notice when the thread's title is how to do a midnight run. a real bright one aren't you. dipshit if your only suggestion is giving a notice then shut the fuck up and don't say anything.

The Expat said...

If you can't see the value of offering advice on the topic while encouraging people to be responsible, then you're simply a waste of time.

Move on.

Anonymous said...

dude you're simply a fucking retard or you cant see the fact that giving shitty advice about "doing the right thing" when people are trying to leave shitty hogwans is as full of shit as you are.

John from Daejeon said...

Anon., you are making a strong case that they hagwon is not the problem. The Expat has been far more generous of his blog and time than most reasonable people could be expected to in his shoes while dealing with your petty outbursts.

Grow up and move on for everyone's sake, or go to Dave's ESL and join others of your ilk who get off complaining (yet do nothing constructive about it).

The Expat said...
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kushibo said...

Since remnants of Anonymous's comments are still up, I'll add my voice to the chorus that it does sound like, if Anonymous has been having problems with a hagwon or hagwons, it may not be entirely the hagwons' fault.

Anonymous said...

yeah the chorus of 3 retards who dont know what they are talking about.

kushibo said...

"Retards," "fucking retard," "shitty advice," "full of shit," "fuck you retard," "a real bright one aren't you," "dipshit," "shut the fuck up," "nazi scumbag"...

Really, step back for a minute and ask yourself, "Are they (the hagwon, the people on-line I'm talking with, my neighbors, that guy from yesterday, etc.) the problem, or am I?"

You seem to have anger issues and/or you deflect problems of your own making onto other people. Either way, you need to make some changes in your outlook, your attitude, and probably your life.

Now, I could be wrong, and if I am, then I apologize. But if you can't answer back without using profanity or an angry tone, then I'm probably right.

Anonymous said...

kushibo suck my dick. if thats your kid in the display it looks like someone took a shit and put a wig on the turd.

kushibo said...

Wow, so now you're lashing out at little kids. You're further gone than I thought.

I said what I said in complete seriousness. You have some very serious issues, anger issues, possibly even a propensity toward violence. You truly should seek help.

I mean that in all sincerity; I'm not saying that as getting back at you for what you've said.

At any rate, that's Baby Kushibo (me) not Kushibo's Baby (who does not yet exist).

The Expat said...

I was always wondering if that was you or your kid. It looks like the troll is good for something after all.

Katelin said...

Compelling reason? My sister made a midnight run when she found out her Hagwon director offered to sell her "services" (if you get my drift) to a potential business partner to help secure a deal. It got back to her a couple of days later at 10am when the business partner said "He didn't lie when he said you were a pretty girl".

She pretended she had a migrane, raced home, gathered her things, left a note apologising to her co-workers but explaining the situation and why she couldn't stay, raced to the airport and got the first flight to Japan. Told immigration she had a week off and was taking a holiday to Tokyo for five days and would get a return ticket from there. They let her through and she then got a flight back to JFK from Narita.

It is one thing to just leave like that because you don't like it (its OK not to like it, but try and have some honesty and do it right you know?) but I can totally understand why Lauren didn't feel comfortable talking to her Hagwon director and needed to GET OUT NOW.

The Expat said...

Wow! That's certainly a reason right there. Want to share which hagwon it was?

Anonymous said...

im not lashing out at any kids. yours just looks like a cross eyed piece of shit thats been dropped on its head one 2 many times. now back to sucking my dick kushibo....

britomart said...

I did a midnight run in January '09 and had no trouble with immigration. As another poster mentioned, dress nicely and it shouldn't be a problem. I did make sure to have the phone number of the American Embassy with me, just in case. Left a note in my apt. and got the hell out of Dodge at 4 a.m. Arrived back in the States and began immediate treatment for clinical depression.

They still have my undergrad diploma but my univ. has told me it's no problem to replace it.

If you're miserable for heaven's sake, get out!

Jackie said...

I also did a midnight run in January 2009. I still struggle with guilt, and regret. It was an impulsive decision, however I had struggled for months to improve my situation with my Hogwan, and things kept getting worse. I had even found a new job, having wanted to stay in Korea, but the hogwan would not release me from my contract. I was sinking into a serious depression, and it felt like my only option was to run. I felt trapped.

I must say that in retrospect I know I should have done something more constructive than just leave like a coward.

I had no legal or immigration issue leaving the country, but for those considering a midnight run, I would just advise being 110% sure of what you are doing. I doubt I would have been able to finish my contact with the hogwan, but I think they at least deserved some notice, just because they were awful to me, doesn't mean I was justified in acting so immaturely.

preggolover said...

i know that you said you despite when people pull the midnight run, but as you said, sometimes it's needed. my husband just recently went to china to teach English, and from the moment he's gotten there, the agency he signed to has been trying to screw him over. they wouldn't give him his own apartment, as stated in the contract, they try and force him to work more than the allotted time stated in said contract.. The contract said the school would pay for the apartment and some utilities, including internet, sanitation, water, and they were to give him a food allowance. They made him pay for it, which he didn't argue because I was supposed to fly out a week after him (due to visa complications on my part) and I needed him to help me, hence him needing the internet. this agency ordered him to lie to the school he works for, told him to say that he had a teaching degree, experience and he was certified for TESL, which he is not, and has no experience nor a degree. They took his passport/visa and told him he couldn't get it back for three weeks, and then tried to make him pay over 300 USD to run a "background check" on him, which should have happened before he even left and they signed the contract themselves. It's made him clinically depressed and to the point where he doesnt even want to talk to me most of the time because he's so miserable, so I suggested he just come home. as of this moment he's doing that, sitting in CGQ, Changchun's airport, and I've been looking around online and have seen things mentioned about needing an "exit visa" is this true? will immigration not allow him to leave without one? or since he was on a work visa (z visa) can he leave when he chooses, since it doesn't specify when he's to leave? im hoping the expat sees this and responds sometime soon, i'm VERY desperate for info.

The Expat said...

Jackie,

I've never pulled a midnight run, but I have quit jobs before. While I feel no guilt because I gave them ample time to find a replacement and I'm an F2, I do understand the need to move on.

Don't be so hard on yourself.

The Expat said...

Preggo,

It seems that China --once considered the easier place to work--
is becoming more and more like Korea. That means, of course, that droves of well-intentioned teachers get screwed over by their school or recruiters.

Teachers in China deal with a slightly different situation than teachers here. In Korea, the recruiter gets you here and then they hand you over to the school. In China, however, the recruiter is the one sponsoring your visa (in many cases) and they have all the control which --as your husband knows all too well-- means that they can put teachers in very uncomfortable positions where manipulation is thrust upon all involved parties. The recruiting company doesn't want to lose the contract with the school. THAT is their concern. The teacher is there to do the bidding.

Like Korea, China has a hell of a lot of laws, but enforcement of the law depends on the individual and the relationship of those involved. Chinese provincial and municipal government leaders are free to interpret and enforce the law in any way that best meets their needs or status. This means that there is no clear answer.

However, since he's on a working visa (as opposed to the L or F), he shouldn't face too many problems. If he has a multiple-entry visa (which isn't automatic with the Z), he'll be fine.

Let me know how it goes.

Siobhan said...
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Lauren said...

My boyfriend and I are planning on a midnight run in the next week or so. It's not at all because we don't like teaching or we're homesick, it's because our employers have screwed us over time and again since we got here. They didn't give us our own apartment for weeks, they don't pay us on time, the boss comes in to scream at the teachers for things we have no control over, they're making us work crazy hours and teach 9 classes a day with no break and no time to prepare for the classes or do paperwork. When we said that our contract stipulates how many hours a week we can work, they claimed that our contracts don't exist because the director never signed them! They emailed us the contracts before we even got here and now they're trying to say that they don't exist. They want to make new contracts with us that don't protect us at all. In addition to this, they told us that they want to fire the two other native teachers because they "complain too much." (which really means that they aren't letting the bosses walk all over them). So we're getting out while we "don't have a contract." Chances are they can "find" the contract and try and stop us from leaving the country if they find out, so we're doing it on the quiet.

My point is, there are unacceptable situations that can force you to do a midnight run even if leaving the students and some coworkers is the last thing you want to do.

jesterpr said...

I need to midnight run. Is the return ticket necessary? I'm going to Japan one way and then will get a flight to JFK.
Is it better to tell them I no longer work there and hand in the foreigner card, or is it better to say I'm on vacation and have not bought a return yet?
Also, what's the worst that can happen here? Korea is psuedo modern. I imagine they could do what they want. No one would care, particularly the U.S. embassy.
What's the best way to do this?

Scenario 2:
The boss still has my passport from the ARC. He wont give it back. If I get a new passport at teh U.S. embassy, will immigration give me crap? Obviously, the new passport will not contain the E2. Should I just say it was lost adn I got a new one? How hands on are the immigration nazis?

Cait said...

Weighing in belatedly. This summer I went to China over my vacation. I flew into Beijing and out of Shanghai, so I left Korea on a one-way ticket and no one even mentioned it to me at Incheon.

Also, on my first trip out of Korea, I didn't realize I needed a re-entry permit and the woman at the ticket counter wouldn't give me my ticket until I went to Immigration and got a re-entry permit, so at least some airlines will warn passengers before they leave the country without the permit to get back.

Lindsay said...

Alright. I think I fall into the 'midnight run' category, although it makes me feel like a convict, it does add the flavour of adventure to my life ;)

I am just worried that I will be stopped at immigration because I left the country for vacation just a month and a half ago. Can anyone please advise me?

Em said...

im pulling a midnighter.. should i apply for my pension the day before i leave.. is this a good idea.. please respond

The Expat said...

I can't guarantee, but unless things have changed, the pension office will NOT give you your pension if they know you're not completing your contract.

If you apply for it, they might ask to see your contract (unlikely), but your employer could potentially contact them upon discovering you've bailed and try to put a hold on it (especially if you still owe money).

Blue Eyes in Korea said...

I'm doing a midnight run because I've been completely screwed over my my hogwan, teaching 30-32 hours of classes a week, plus having to stay to do tons of marking, the owners keep refusing to let me take my holiday, extra meetings all the time. I've stayed six months, but according to my contract, I must pay my flight ticket, housing deposit and recruitment fees (all unspecified amounts) even if I leave in the 11th month. I'm sure my boss would deduct many more mysterious fees from my last pay check if he knew I was leaving, which is why I'm not telling him. I'm going to leave a note and explain my reasons for quitting.

I have a job in another part of Asia, if I get my visa while I'm here, and have it in my passport when I leave Korea, can immigration stop me? Is it likely they notice this and do so?

The Expat said...

Blues Eyes:

It all depends on when and how you leave your job. If you leave on a weekday morning and don't call into work, your boss will be concerned and send someone to check on you. If they find a note from you detailing the reasons you pulled a runner, they will most likely contact immigration and try to stop you. After all, they want to pay the money they feel you owe them.

If you leave in the evening or on a weekend, it will simply look like you're taking a vacation. You are free to leave whenever. Immigration does not automatically stop foreigners and question them about their visa and why they are leaving.

Just be smart, cover your ass and leave when it won't look odd. Also, don't tell anyone at work. This is your business only.

Eden way-Williams said...
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Eden way-Williams said...
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