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Heads of doctors groups clash over medical standoff

June 14, 2024 - 12:28 By Yoon Min-sik
A patient and a doctor are seen at a hospital in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

The respective leaders of a group representing trainee doctors and the largest group of physicians in the country have entered a war of words regarding the ongoing standoff between the government and the medical community, hinting at a potential rift in the medical circle.

Park Dan, the leader of the Korean Intern Resident Association, has criticized Korean Medical Association leader Lim Hyun-taek over his handling of the situation. Lim had said that communications with members of the medical community would be through a unified channel, with the KMA at the center.

"What's with (Lim) repeatedly saying that he is at the center? It's already mid-June, and it is time for Lim to work, not talk," Park said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

He criticized Lim in saying that the association is still "putting only the trainee doctors and students on the front line," and that he has never agreed with him regarding such a unified channel or unified demands.

Park reiterated that his group's stance remains unchanged regarding its demands, which includes the Yoon Suk Yeol administration scrapping the planned hike of the medical school quota by up to 2,000 for the 2025 school year.

Lim fired back, saying in a media interview that the KMA could leave the matter solely to the government and the KIRA if that is what the trainee doctors want.

"If (the KIRA) wishes the KMA not to be concerned with the trainee doctors' problem anymore, the KMA no longer wants to be involved," he said, adding that the group will "carefully consider" withdrawing its involvement.

Lim is slated to meet with representatives of the ruling People Power Party on Friday afternoon to discuss the ongoing standoff.

A large portion of trainee doctors, medical students and physicians across the country have been participating in a walkoff since February in protest of the government's plan to raise the quota for medical school admissions. The administration in April suggested a compromise that would allow medical schools to adjust the quotas within a range of 50 to 100 percent of the allocated slots, but the medical community rejected it and maintained that the discussion should start from scratch.

Meanwhile, the Medical Professors Association of Korea said Wednesday that it has decided to join the one-day shutdown of medical services on Tuesday next week planned by the KMA.