I’ve just returned from South Korea where I was struck by the simple way old and new mesh. History shows how the Korean’s homeland was so badly damaged by other people fighting the cold war on this peninsular. From there, the only way was up and the “Miracle of the Hangang River” is a justified phrase with modern Seoul rising so majestically from the debris.

There is history here stretching back tens of thousands of years, yet many of those I meet seem to be feeling they must catch up with the world. That’s ironic, given how often they’ve been in front. They had mechanical printing presses centuries before Europeans. The first iron-clad war ships were built here to repel aggressors. When products are shipped around the world, there’s a fair chance they go on a Korean-built ship. And what about those high quality Korean screens and other electronic marvels we enjoy and rely on? This is a proud nation, albeit divided for this brief piece of history by a demilitarised zone. That’s just a pendulum swinging – they’ve been divided and rejoined before.

What I really like is the assimilation of contrasts; old and new, local and foreign, slow and fast, humility and ambition. There seems to be space for everything. Which raises the question of why I’m so welcomed? Yes, it’s partly the warm welcome they offer anyone as part of their ancient traditions. It’s also likely to be the fact that I’m known for asking new questions, as that reveals new answers.

Those Koreans who’ve had a major European or American influence tend towards following those outside paths, although in the infection control field they are basically the same. So those with a major influence from outside Korea lack constructive suggestions on how to change anything for the better with healthcare associated infections. They will share the infection results currently achieved with the multinational ‘best practices’. Sadly, those results are very bad for many thousands of patients every year.

More of the same will deliver more of the same. If that’s the aim, the Koreans need only conform to what those other countries have been doing for decades. The World Health Organisation guidelines on hand hygiene summarise what has been done to achieve those unfortunate results. So the path to poor results is well marked.

What if they want better results? It’s easy to achieve, as soon as they do something different. There’s been no indication that the required alternative will come from those who’ve chosen a non-Korean ‘global’ perspective. I feel their answer will come from within, as all the relevant answers have in this country’s rich history. If their new answers arise from my new questions, I’ll be thrilled.

They needn’t conform to anyone else’s view as they can choose what results they want. Their national culture has a rich and long history to show what they’ve already achieved with local objectives.

Dr Harley Farmer PhD BVSc(hons) BVBiol(Path) MRCVS

CEO NewGenn, choice creator, international listener.

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