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Govt., doctors tentatively agree to raise medical student quota

June 9, 2023 - 10:35 By Lee Jaeeun
Health and Welfare Minister Cho Kyu-hong speaks at a meeting on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

The South Korean government announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement with a coalition of doctors' groups to increase the number of medical students.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Korean Medical Association, the country's largest coalition of doctors' groups, with 130,000 members, met on Thursday to discuss expanding the number of students admitted to medical schools and addressing the shortage of doctors.

According to the agreement, the number of medical students will be increased from 2025. The admissions quota for medical schools has been frozen at 3,058 students per year since 2006. The specific figure of the increase will be decided through further discussions.

The government has previously attempted to boost the number of medical students to supply more doctors to unpopular but essential medical fields and in rural areas, saying such policies are necessary to help prepare for future public health crises. However, doctors on the other hand have argued that the issue should be resolved by ensuring better compensation for physicians working in essential medical fields and rural areas, not just by increasing the number of doctors.

Accordingly, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Korean Medical Association have decided to develop other measures to ensure that more medical personnel can flow into essential medical fields such as neurological and thoracic surgery, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology. The specific kinds of measures will be discussed later.

Doctors had previously opposed increasing the number of medical students, but agreed with the government’s plan as criticism of them has grown since the shortage of doctors has intensified.

The next meeting where specific measures will be discussed will be held on May 15.