Send to

Doctors, govt. on collision course over medical school quota increase

Feb. 12, 2024 - 11:55 By Yonhap
Health officials discuss measures against local doctors' collective action during a meeting held in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Doctors and the government are on a collision course over the decision to significantly increase medical school seats, with doctors vowing to go on a strike and the government pledging a stern response, including even revoking doctors' licenses.

Last week, the government announced its plan to add 2,000 seats to the country's medical school enrollment quota next year, a sharp rise from the current 3,058 medical school seats that have been capped since 2006.

The move came as the country has been grappling with a shortage of doctors in crucial areas, as medical professionals tend to prefer practicing in nonessential areas with lower risks.

In protest of the decision, the Korea Medical Association (KMA), a major lobby group for doctors, said it will hold protest rallies nationwide on Thursday as the first collective action after the entity went into emergency mode.

The Korean Intern Resident Association (KIRA), another doctors' organization, is also anticipated to take a collective move, as its recent survey showed 88 percent of the members plan to join the protest.

KIRA intends to convene a meeting of representatives later on Monday to discuss the course of action.

The government is highly anticipated to take stern responses should doctors stage a strike.

The Medical Service Act stipulates that the government possesses the authority to potentially revoke doctors' licenses should they receive criminal punishments after failing to adhere to the order to return to work.

Upon the announcement of the enrollment hike, Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong said the government would take "actions under principles and the law, in accordance with our legal duty" should doctors stage a strike.

In a separate social media post on Monday, Cho also noted that the government's recent decision was aimed at making local hospitals "sustainable."

"I understand that there are many protests and concerns in regard to the expansion of the medical school quota," Cho said. "But we ask doctors not to doubt the government's sincerity in its efforts to make hospitals a sustainable workplace."