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Nervous hygienists swap Seoul for Brisbane as tensions mount

Potential speakers indicated a reluctance to commit to 2019 conference

Pictured: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un

The International Federation of Dental Hygienists (IFDH) has moved its flagship meeting out of Seoul because of mounting political tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The 21st IFDH International Symposium on Dental Hygiene, in 2019, will now take place in Brisbane, where it will be hosted by the Dental Hygienists Association of Australia.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are locked in a seemingly unbreakable and escalating cycle of sabre-rattling, that has clearly unnerved the IFDH board.

President Robyn Watson said: “We have had indications from potential speakers and participants that they would not participate in a conference in South Korea because of this situation.

“We have been watching the situation evolve for several months and it has not been an easy decision to make, but unfortunately the increase in tension with the ongoing nuclear testing and build-up of strategic weapons in the area makes the situation too volatile and we feel that it is perceived as unsafe for participants to travel to the region.”

The event is set to return to Seoul in 2024.

With 17 of the 34 member countries based in Europe the majority of international delegates are expected to travel to Brisbane from Europe and the United States with strong representation from Australia, India, Korea, Japan, South Africa and Singapore.

The Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Tourism and Events Queensland, and Brisbane Marketing secured the conference for Brisbane for the first time.

During a visit to Brisbane, Watson said the Queensland capital was chosen to host the 2019 event after a formal decision process by the IFDH Board. “We are delighted that it is to be hosted in Australia - and many overseas colleagues that I speak to express a desire to visit Australia,” she said.

Dr Melanie Hayes, CEO of the local host organisation, DHAA, said the conference would focus on opportunities for leadership, empowerment, advancement and diversity. 

“We wanted the program to have a broader framework and not just a purely clinical one.  We believe it needs to include clinicians, researchers, educators, advocates and tackle diversity – we work with a whole lot of different communities in society.”

BCEC general manager, Bob O’Keeffe, added: “We have a very strong scientific focus at the Centre and events of this calibre help bring to the attention of the world, Brisbane’s science industry strengths as well as encouraging collaboration between some of the world’s leading thinkers, experts and innovators.”

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