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Govt. open to change in medical school quota hike if better option is proposed: minister

April 3, 2024 - 10:26 By Yonhap
Interior Minister Lee Sang-min speaks during a government response meeting in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

The government is open to the possibility of changing its policy to increase the medical school admission quota if a better option is proposed, the interior minister said Wednesday, as the walkout by protesting trainee doctors continued for the seventh week.

Interior Minister Lee Sang-min made the remark during a government response meeting amid no signs of a breakthrough in the prolonged standoff between the government and the medical community over the plan to add 2,000 more medical school seats.

"The policies of the government always remain open-ended. If a better opinion with reasonable grounds is presented, their direction can change for the better," Lee noted.

Major hospitals in South Korea have significantly reduced surgeries, outpatient services and emergency medical treatment as the majority of trainee doctors, who are a main part of the general hospital workforce, have stayed off their duties in protest since late February.

The government has maintained its openness to holding talks with doctors for a breakthrough if the doctors' community presents a unified and reasonable alternative although the government had not yet clearly expressed an intention to modify the size of the quota hike.

"I hope that the medical community, including trainee doctors, will proactively present its opinions in order to normalize essential medical fields and regional medical services that are currently at risk," he said.

"The government's medical reform and the medical normalization task aim to protect the lives and the health of the public," he also stressed.

The minister again called on striking trainee doctors to return to work, saying that "your voice would be heard more clearly and seriously when you return to hospitals and fulfill your duties beside patients." (Yonhap)