or 조선) is a civilization
unified nation currently divided into two states. Located on the
Korean Peninsula, it borders
China to the northwest, Russia to the
northeast, and is separated from Japan to the east
by the Korea
united until 1948; at that time it was split into South Korea and North
South Korea, officially the Republic of
Korea, is a capitalist
and developed country
, with memberships in the
and G-20 major economies
. North Korea,
officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is a
country founded by
and currently led by his son
Archaeological and linguistic evidence
suggest the origins of the Korean people
were in Altaic language-speaking
migrants from south-central Siberia, who
populated ancient Korea in
successive waves from the Neolithic age to
the Bronze Age.
The adoption of
the Chinese writing system
" in Korean) in the 2nd century BCE,
in the 4th century CE, had
profound effects on the Three
Kingdoms of Korea
. Korea later passed on a modified version of
these cultural advances to Japan.
Dynasty, Korea was ruled by a single government and
maintained political and cultural independence until the 20th
century, despite the Mongol
invasions of the Goryeo Dynasty in
the 13th century and Japanese invasions of the
Dynasty in the 16th century.
In 1377, Korea produced
, the world's oldest existing
document printed with movable metal type. In the 15th century, the
were deployed, and King
Sejong the Great
promulgated the Korean alphabet Hangul
latter part of the Joseon
Dynasty, Korea's isolationist policy earned it the Western
nickname the "Hermit Kingdom".
late 19th century, the country became the object of the colonial
designs of Japan and Europe.
In 1910, Korea was forcibly annexed by Japan
occupied until the end of World War II
in August 1945.
Union and the United States agreed on the surrender and disarming of Japanese
troops in Korea; the Soviet Union accepting the surrender of
Japanese weaponry north of the
38th parallel and the United States taking the surrender south
This minor decision by allied armies soon became the
basis for the division of Korea
the two superpowers
, exacerbated by their
inability to agree on the terms of Korean independence.
Cold War rivals then established
governments sympathetic to their own ideologies, leading to Korea's
current division into two political entities: North Korea and South
derives from the Goryeo period of
Korean history, which in turn
referred to the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo.
Merchants of the Middle East
called it Cauli
Chinese pronunciation), which then came to be spelled Corea and
Korea. Korea is now commonly used in English contexts by both North
and South Korea. A K
is often used in Germanic languages
, while a C
preferred in Romance
In the Korean language
, Korea as a
whole is referred to as Han-guk
in South Korea, and
in North Korea. The latter name, also Romanised
Joseon, is from the Joseon Dynasty and the earlier Gojoseon.
"The Land of the Morning Calm" is
an English language
loosely derived from the hanja
Prehistory and Gojoseon
Korean Academy of Social Sciences discovered ancient human fossils
originating from about 100,000 BCE in the lava at a stone city site
in Korea. Fluorescent and high-magnetic analyses indicate the
volcanic fossils may be from as early as 300,000 BCE. The best
preserved Korean pottery goes back to the paleolithic
times around 10,000 BCE, and the
period begins around 6000
's founding legend describes
, a descendent of heaven, as
establishing the kingdom in 2333 BCE. Archaeological
and contemporary written
records indicate it developed from a federation of walled cities
into a centralised kingdom sometime between the 7th and 4th
original capital may have been at the Manchuria-Korea border, but was later moved to
what is today Pyongyang, North Korea.
In 108 BCE, the Chinese
defeated Wiman Joseon
and installed four commanderies in
the area of Liaoning and the northern Korean peninsula. By 75 BCE,
three of those commanderies had fallen, but the Lelang Commandery
remained as a center of
cultural and economic exchange with successive Chinese dynasties
until 313, when it fell to Goguryeo
The hi Proto-Three Kingdoms period, sometimes called the Several
States Period, is the earlier part of what is commonly called the
Three Kingdoms Period
following the fall of Gojoseon
fully developed into kingdoms.
This time period saw numerous states spring up from the former
territories of Gojoseon. Buyeo arose in
Korea and southern Manchuria,
from about the 2nd century BCE to 494.
Its remnants were
absorbed by Goguryeo
in 494, and both
Goguryeo and Baekje
, two of the Three Kingdoms of Korea
themselves its successor. Okjeo
of northern Korea were eventually absorbed
into the growing Goguryeo
Located in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula
refers to the three confederacies of Mahan
, and Byeonhan
. Mahan was the largest and
consisted of 54 states. Byeonhan and Jinhan both consisted of
twelve states, bringing a total of 78 states within the Samhan.
These three confederacies eventually developed into Baekje
, and Gaya
The Three Kingdoms of Korea
) dominated the peninsula and parts of
Manchuria during the early Common Era
They competed with each other both economically and
and other states in the former Gojoseon
territory. Goguryeo was the most dominant power; it
reached its zenith in the fifth century, when reign of the Gwanggaeto the Great and
his son, Jangsu expanded
territory into almost all of Manchuria and part of inner Mongolia,
and took the Seoul region from
Gwanggaeto and Jangsu subdued Baekje and Silla
during their times. After the 7th Century, Goguryeo was constantly
at war with the Sui
dynasties of China.
around modern day Seoul, the
southwestern kingdom Baekje expanded far
beyond Pyongyang during the peak of its powers in the 4th
century. It had absorbed all of the Mahan states and
subjugated most of the western Korean peninsula (including the
modern provinces of Gyeonggi, Chungcheong, and
Jeolla, as well as part of Hwanghae and Gangwon) to a centralised government.
acquired Chinese culture and technology through contacts with the
expansion of its territory. Historic evidence suggests that
Japanese culture, art, and language was strongly influenced by the
kingdom of Baekje and Korea itself. Archeological findings have
further confirmed many of these hypotheses but extensive
investigation is often restricted by the Japanese government and is
usually conducted by government-appointed groups.
Although later records claim that Silla
the southeast, was the oldest of the three kingdoms, it is now
believed to have been the last kingdom to develop. By the 2nd
century, Silla existed as a large state, occupying and influencing
nearby city states. Silla began to gain power when it annexed the
in 562 CE. The
Gaya confederacy was located between Baekje and Silla. The three
kingdoms of Korea often warred with each other and Silla often
faced pressure from Baekje and Goguryeo but at various times Silla
also allied with Baekje and Goguryeo in order to gain dominance
over the peninsula.
In 660, King Muyeol of Silla
his armies to attack Baekje
. General Kim Yu-shin
(Gim Yu-sin), aided by Tang
forces, conquered Baekje. In 661, Silla
and Tang moved on Goguryeo
repelled. King Munmu
, son of Muyeol
and nephew of General Kim launched another campaign in 667 and
Goguryeo fell in the following year.
North South States Period
In the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries, Silla's power gradually
extended across the Korean Peninsula. Silla first annexed the
adjacent Gaya confederacy
. By the
660s, Silla formed an alliance with the Tang Dynasty of China to
conquer Baekje and later Goguryeo. After repelling Chinese forces,
Silla partially unified the Peninsula, beginning a period often
called Unified Silla
north, former Goguryeo General Dae
Joyeong led a group of Goguryeo refugees to the Jilin area in
Manchuria and founded Balhae (698 CE - 926
CE) as the successor to Goguryeo.
At its height, Balhae's
territory extended from northern Manchuria down to the northern
provinces of modern-day Korea. Balhae was destroyed by the Khitan
Unified Silla fell apart in the late 9th century, giving way to the
tumultuous Later Three
(892-935). Goryeo unified the
Later Three Kingdoms and absorbed Balhae refugees.
country Goryeo was founded
in 918 and replaced Silla as the ruling dynasty of Korea.
("Goryeo" is a short form of "Goguryeo" and the source of the
English name "Korea".) The dynasty lasted until 1392.
During this period laws were codified, and a civil service system
was introduced. Buddhism
spread throughout the peninsula. The development of celadon
industry flourished in 12th and 13th
century. The publication of Tripitaka
Koreana onto 80,000 wooden blocks and the invention of the
world's first movable-metal-type printing
press in 13th century attest to Goryeo's cultural
Their dynasty was threatened by Mongol
invasion from the 1230s into the 1270s, but the dynastic line
continued to survive until 1392 since they negotiated a treaty with
the Mongols that kept its sovereign power.
In 1350s, King Gongmin
was free at
last to reform a Goryeo government. Gongmin had various problems
that needed to be dealt with, which included the removal of
pro-Mongol aristocrats and military officials, the question of land
holding, and quelling the growing animosity between the Buddhists
and Confucian scholars.
the general Yi Seong-gye established
Dynasty (1392-1910) with a largely bloodless coup.
it the Joseon
Dynasty in honor of the previous Joseon before (Gojoseon is
the first Joseon.
"Go", meaning "old", was added to
distinguish between the two).
King Taejo moved the capital to Hanseong (formerly Hanyang;
modern-day Seoul) and built
the Gyeongbokgung palace.
In 1394 he adopted Confucianism
as the country's official
religion, resulting in much loss of power and wealth by the
Buddhists. The prevailing philosophy was Neo-Confucianism
Joseon experienced advances in science and culture. King Sejong the Great
, the Korean alphabet. The
period saw various other cultural and technological advances as
well as the dominance of neo-Confucianism over the entire
estimated to have accounted for about one third of the population
of Joseon Korea.
Between 1592 and 1598, the Japanese invaded
Hideyoshi ordered the forces and tried to invade the Asian continent through Korea, but was eventually
repelled by a Righteous army, Admiral
Yi Sun-sin and assistance from Ming China.
This war also saw the rise of the career of
Admiral Yi Sun-sin
with the "turtle ship
". In the 1620s and 1630s Joseon
suffered invasions by the
After invasions from
, Joseon experienced a nearly 200-year period of
peace. King Yeongjo
and King Jeongjo
led a new renaissance of the
However, during the last years of the Joseon Dynasty, Korea's
isolationist policy earned it the name the "Hermit Kingdom
", primarily for protection
against Western imperialism
was forced to open trade beginning an era leading into Japanese colonial rule
The earliest surviving depiction of
the Korean / South Korean flag was printed in a US Navy book
Flags of Maritime Nations
in July 1889.
Beginning in the 1870s, Japan began to force Korea out of the
Manchu Qing Dynasty's sphere of the traditional influence into its
own. As a result of the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), the Qing
Dynasty had to give up such a position according to Article 1 of
the Treaty of Shimonoseki
which was concluded between Qing and Japan in 1895. The same year,
assassinated by Japanese agents.
the Joseon dynasty proclaimed the Korean Empire (1897-1910), and King Gojong became Emperor Gojong.
brief period saw the partially successful modernisation of the
military, economy, real property laws, education system, and
various industries, influenced by the political encroachment into
Korea of Russia, Japan, France, and the United States.
In 1904, the Russo-Japanese War
pushed the Russians out of the fight for Korea. In Manchuria
on 1909, An
assassinated the former Resident-General of Korea
for his role in
trying to force Korea into occupation.
In 1910, an already militarily occupied Korea was a forced party to
the Japan-Korea Annexation
. The treaty was signed by Lee
, who was given the General Power of Attorney by the
Emperor. However, the Emperor is said to have not actually ratified
the treaty according to Yi Tae-jin. There is a long dispute whether
this treaty was legal or illegal due to its signing under duress,
threat of force and bribes.
Korean resistance to the brutal Japanese occupation was manifested
in the nonviolent March 1st
of 1919, where 7,000 demonstrators were killed by
Japanese police and military. The Korean liberation movement also
spread to neighbouring Manchuria and
Over five million Koreans were conscripted for labour beginning in
1939, and tens of thousands of men were forced into Japan's
military. Approximately 200,000 girls and women, mostly from China
and Korea, were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese
military. In 1993, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono
acknowledged the terrible injustices
faced by these euphemistically named "comfort women
During the Japanese Colonial rule, the Korean language was
suppressed in an effort to eradicate Korean national identity.
Koreans were forced to take Japanese surnames, known as Sōshi-kaimei
. Traditional Korean culture
suffered heavy losses, as
numerous Korean cultural artifacts were destroyed or taken to
Japan. To this day, valuable Korean artifacts can often be found in
Japanese museums or among private collections. One investigation by
the South Korean government identified 75,311 cultural assets that
were taken from Korea, 34,369 in Japan and 17,803 in the United States.
However, experts estimate that over 100,000
artifacts actually remain in Japan. Japanese officials considered
returning Korean cultural properties, but to date this has not
occurred. Korea and Japan still dispute the ownership
Rocks, a small island located east of the Korean
a significant level of emigration to the overseas territories of
the Empire of
Japan during the Japanese colonial period, including
By the end
of World War II
, there were over
850,000 Japanese settlers in Korea. After World War II, most of
these overseas Japanese
repatriated to Japan.
surrender of Japan in 1945 the
United Nations developed plans for a
trusteeship administration, the Soviet Union administering the peninsula north of the 38th parallel and the United States administering the
south. The politics of the
Cold War resulted in the 1948 establishment
of two separate governments, North Korea and South
Urban combat in Seoul, 1950, as US
Marines fight North Koreans holding the city.
In June 1950 North Korea invaded the South, using Soviet tanks and
weaponry. During the Korean War
(1950-1953) millions of civilians died and the three years of
fighting throughout the nation effectively destroyed most cities.
125,000 POWs were captured and held by the Americans and South
Koreans on Geojedo (an island in the south).
The war ended in a
ceasefire agreement at approximately the Military Demarcation
Division of Korea
The aftermath of World War II left Korea partitioned along the 38th
parallel, with the north under Soviet occupation and the south
under the occupation of other allied countries. Consequently, the
Democratic People's Republic of
Korea, a Soviet-style socialist regime, was established
in the north while the Republic of Korea, a Western-style republic, was established in the
The Korean War broke out when Soviet-backed North
Korea invaded South Korea, though neither side gained much
territory as a result. The Korean peninsula remains divided, the
Korean Demilitarised Zone
being the de facto
border between the two states.
The North Korean famine
1995 and peaked in 1997. According to a report by North Korea's
Public Security Ministry, the North estimates its losses at about
2.5 million to 3 million from 1995 to March 1998.
Korea is located on the Korean
in North-East Asia
northwest, the Amnok River (Yalu River)
separates Korea from China and to the northeast, the Duman River
River) separates Korea from China and Russia.
Sea is to the west, the East China Sea is to the south, and the East
Sea (Sea of Japan) is to the east of Korea. Notable islands
Island (Jejudo), Ulleung Island (Ulleungdo), and Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo).
The southern and western parts of the peninsula have well-developed
plains, while the eastern and northern parts are mountainous.
highest mountain in Korea is Mount Paektu or Paektusan (2744 m), through which runs the
border with China.
The southern extension of Paektusan is a
highland called Gaema Heights
highland was mainly raised during the Cenozoic
orogeny and partly covered by volcanic
matter. To the south of Gaema Gowon, successive high mountains are
located along the eastern coast of the peninsula. This mountain
range is named Baekdudaegan
significant mountains include Mount Sobaek
or Sobaeksan (1,439 m), Mount
Kumgang or Kumgangsan (1,638 m), Mount Seorak or Seoraksan(1,708 m), Mount Taebaek or Taebaeksan (1,567 m), and
Mount Jiri or
There are several lower, secondary
mountain series whose direction is almost perpendicular to that of
Baekdudaegan. They are developed along the tectonic line of
Mesozoic orogeny and their directions are basically
Unlike most ancient mountains on the mainland, many important
islands in Korea were formed by volcanic activity in the Cenozoic
orogeny. Jeju Island, situated off the southern coast, is a large
volcanic island whose main mountain Mount Halla or Hallasan (1950 m) is the highest in South
Korea. Ulleung Island is a volcanic island in the East Sea (Sea of Japan), whose composition is more
felsic than Jeju-do.
The volcanic islands tend to be
younger, the more westward.
Because the mountainous region is mostly on the eastern part of the
peninsula, the main rivers
flow westwards. Two exceptions are the southward-flowing Nakdong River
(Nakdonggang) and Seomjin River
(Seomjingang). Important rivers
running westward include the Amnok River (Yalu), the Chongchon
River(Chongchongang), the Taedong
River(Taedonggang), the Han River(Hangang), the Geum River(Geumgang), and the Yeongsan River(Yeongsangang).
rivers have vast flood plains and provide an ideal environment for
The southern and southwestern coastlines of Korea form a
coastline, known as
in Korean. Its convoluted coastline provides
mild seas, and the resulting calm environment allows for safe
navigation, fishing, and seaweed farming. In addition to the
complex coastline, the western coast of the Korean Peninsula has an
extremely high tidal amplitude (at Incheon, around the middle of the western coast.
can get as high as 9 m). Vast tidal flats have been developing
on the south and west coastlines
The combined population of the Koreans is about 73 million (North
Korea: 23 million, South Korea: 50 million). Korea is chiefly
populated by a highly homogeneous
group, the Koreans
, who speak the Korean language
. The number of foreigners
living in Korea has also steadily increased since the late 20th
century, particularly in South Korea, where more than 1 million
foreigners currently reside. It is estimated that only 26,700 of
the old Chinese community
now remain in South Korea. However, in recent years, immigration from
mainland China has increased; 624,994 persons of Chinese nationality have immigrated to South Korea,
including 443,566 of ethnic
Small communities of ethnic Chinese and
found in North Korea.
is the official language of
both North and South Korea, and (along with Mandarin) of Yanbian
Autonomous Prefecture in Manchuria area of China. Worldwide, there
are up to 80 million speakers of the Korean language. South Korea
has around 50 million speakers while North Korea around 23 million.
large groups of Korean speakers are found in the United States (around 0.9 million speakers), China (around 1.8 million speakers), the former Soviet Union (around 350,000), Japan (around
700,000), Canada (100,000),
Malaysia (70,000) and Australia
It is estimated that there are around 700,000
people scattered across the world who are able to speak Korean
because of job requirements (for example, salespersons or
businessmen with Korean contacts), marriages to Koreans or out of
pure interest in the language.
The genealogical classification
Korean is debated. Some linguists place it in the Altaic
language family; others consider it
to be a language isolate
. Korean is
morphology and SOV
. Like Japanese
, Korean has borrowed much
vocabulary from the genetically unrelated Chinese
or created vocabulary on Chinese
Modern Korean is written almost exclusively in the hangul
script, which was invented in the 15th
century. While hangul may appear logographic
, it is actually a phonemic
alphabet organised into syllabic
blocks. Each block consists of at least
two of the 24 hangul letters (jamo):
at least one each of the 14 consonants
and 10 vowels
Historically, the alphabet had several additional letters (see
). For a
phonological description of the letters, see Korean phonology
(Chinese characters) and Latin alphabets
are sometimes included within
hangul texts, particularly in South Korea.
Culture and arts
Korean Buddhist architecture
Traditional Korean dance (Jinju
In ancient Chinese texts, Korea is referred to as "Rivers and
Mountains Embroidered on Silk" ( , ) and "Eastern Nation of
Decorum" ( , ). During the 7th and 8th centuries, the silk road
connected Korea to Arabia
. In 845, Arab traders wrote, "Beyond China is
a land where gold abounds and which is named Silla
. The Muslims who have gone there have been
charmed by the country and tend to settle there and abandon all
idea of leaving. "
Korean festivities often showcase vibrant colors, which have been
attributed to Mongolian
influences: bright red, yellow, and green often mark traditional
Korean motifs. These bright colors are sometimes seen in the
traditional dress known as hanbok
One peculiarity of Korean culture is its age reckoning system
are regarded as one year old when they are born, and their age
increments on New Year's Day
than on the anniversary of their birthday. Thus, one born on
December the 31st would be aged two on the day after they were
born. Accordingly, a Korean person's stated age will be one or two
years more than their age expressed in the Western tradition.
literature written before the end of the Joseon Dynasty is called "Classical" or "Traditional."
Literature, written in Chinese characters (hanja
), was established at the same time as the
Chinese script arrived on the peninsula. Korean scholars were
writing poetry in the classical Korean style as early as the 2nd
century BC, reflecting Korean thoughts and experiences of that
time. Classical Korean literature has its roots in traditional folk
beliefs and folk tales of the peninsula, strongly influenced by
Modern literature is often linked with the development of hangul
, which helped spread literacy from the
aristocracy to the common people and women. Hangul, however, only
reached a dominant position in Korean literature in the second half
of the 19th century, resulting in a major growth in Korean
, for instance, are novels written in
The Korean War
led to the development of
literature centered around the wounds and chaos of war
. Much of the post-war literature in South Korea
deals with the daily lives of ordinary people, and their struggles
with national pain. The collapse of the traditional Korean value
system is another common theme of the time.
Amitabha and Eight Great
Bodhisattvas, Goryeo scroll from the 1300s
tradition has dominated Korean
thought, along with contributions by Buddhism
. Since the middle
of the 20th century, however, Christianity
has competed with Buddhism in
South Korea, while religious practice has been suppressed in North
Korea. Throughout Korean history and culture, regardless of
separation; the influence of traditional beliefs of Korean
Shamanism, Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism have remained
an underlying religion of the Korean people as well as a vital
aspect of their culture; all these traditions have coexisted
peacefully for hundreds of years up to today despite strong
Westernisation from christian
conversions in the South or the pressure from Communism
According to 2005 statistics compiled by the South Korean
government, about 46% of citizens profess to follow no particular
for 29.2% of the population (of which are Protestants 18.3% and
Catholics 10.9%) and Buddhists
Koreans valued scholarship and rewarded education and study of
Chinese classic texts; Yangban boys were highly educated in hanja.
In Silla, the bone rank system defined a person's social status,
and a similar system persisted through the end of the Joseon
Dynasty. In addition, the gwageo civil service examination provided
paths of upward mobility.
Islam in South Korea
practiced by about 45,000 natives in addition to some 100,000
foreign workers from Muslim countries.
Korean cuisine is probably best known for kimchi
, which uses a distinctive fermentation
process of preserving
vegetables, most commonly cabbage. Gochujang
(korean traditional sauce made of red
paper) is also commonly used, often as pepper (chilli) powder,
earning the cuisine a reputation for being spicy.
(roasted marinated meat, usually
(marinated grilled short ribs),
(pork belly) are popular
meat entrees. Meals are usually accompanied by a soup or stew, such
(stewed ribs) and doenjang jjigae
(fermented bean paste stew).
The center of the table is filled with a shared collection of
sidedishes called banchan
. It is also
usually accompanied by Soju
, a popular Korean
alcoholic drink made from rice.
Other popular dishes include bibimbap
literally means "mixed rice" (rice mixed with meat, vegetables, and
pepper paste) and naengmyeon
Also, instant noodle called ramyeon
popular. Koreans also enjoy food from pojangmachas
vendors), where one can buy fish cake
(rice cake and fish cake with
a spicy gochujang sauce), and fried foods including squid, sweet
potato, peppers, potato, lettuce. Sundae
, a sausage made of bean curd and
green-bean sprouts stuffed in pig intestine, is widely eaten.
The modern Korean school system consists of 6 years in elementary
school, 3 years in middle school, and 3 years in high school.
Students are supposed to go to elementary and middle school, and do
not have to pay for the education, except for a small fee called
"School Operation Support Fee" that differs from school to school.
(The teachers are paid from taxes) The Programme for
International Student Assessment
, coordinated by the OECD
, currently ranks South Korea's science education
as the 3rd best in the world, being significantly higher than the
Korea also ranks 2nd on Maths and literature and 1st in problem
solving. Although South Korean students often rank high on
international comparative tests, the education system is sometimes
criticised for its emphasis on passive learning and memorisation.
The Korean education system is much more strict and structured than
most western societies. Also high cost and dependence on non-school
private institution (Hakwon[학원]) is criticised as one of the major
social problem. Once students enter university, however, the
situation is markedly reversed.
Science and technology
the best known artifacts of Korea's history of science and
technology is Cheomseongdae (첨성대, ), a 9.4-meter high observatory built in
It is considered to be one of the world's oldest
surviving astronomical observatories.
The world's earliest known surviving example of woodblock printing
is the Mugujeonggwang
Great Dharani Sutra
. It is believed to have been printed in
Korea in 750-751 AD which, if correct, would make it older than the
. Goryeo silk was highly
regarded by Westerners although not as prized as
, and Korean pottery
with blue-green celadon
was of the highest
quality and sought after by even Arabian merchants. Goryeo had a
bustling economy with a capital that was frequented by merchants
from all over the known world.
the Joseon period the
Ship) were invented, which were covered by a wooden deck and
iron with thorns, as well as other weapons such as the Bigyeokjincheolloe (비격진천뢰, ) and the
It is also considered to be
the world first ship that is partly made of iron.
The Korean alphabet hangul
was also invented
during this time by Sejong the
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