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South Korea Protest

South Korea: Doctors rally against government’s medical school recruitment plan

March 4, 2024

Thousands of senior doctors in Seoul gathered for a massive rally on Sunday, expressing solidarity with junior doctors who have been on strike for nearly two weeks. The strike is in response to the government’s controversial plan to significantly increase medical school admissions. As the government threatens to suspend the licenses of around 9,000 defiant medical interns and residents, the strikes have disrupted hospital operations, prompting concerns about the delivery of essential medical services.

During the rally, a senior member of the Korea Medical Association, Park Sung-min, addressed the crowd, condemning the government’s “absurd medical policy” and calling for an end to threats and suppression. Protesters chanted slogans, sang, and held placards criticizing the government’s recruitment plan. Notably, there were no reports of violence during the demonstration.

The striking doctors, though constituting only a fraction of South Korea’s 140,000 doctors, play a vital role in major hospitals, where they assist senior doctors during surgeries and other treatments while undergoing training. Consequently, their walkouts have led to numerous cancellations of surgeries and medical treatments, causing inconvenience and concern among the public.

The government’s proposal aims to increase South Korea’s medical school enrollment quota by 2,000 starting next year, citing the need to address the challenges posed by the country’s rapidly aging population. However, many doctors argue against the plan, expressing concerns about the capacity of medical schools to handle such a significant increase in the number of students.

While the protests by doctors have not garnered widespread public support, with a majority of South Koreans reportedly backing the government’s plan, the situation remains tense. Police are currently investigating Korea Medical Association officials accused of inciting and abetting the junior doctors’ walkouts, adding another layer of complexity to the ongoing standoff. The government’s move to suspend licenses intensifies the standoff, raising questions about the potential impact on the already strained healthcare system. Prime Minister Han Duck-soo has urged senior doctors to intervene and persuade their junior counterparts to end the strikes, emphasizing the critical role that doctors play in maintaining essential medical services.

Source: PTI

Also read: S. Korea: University closures epidemic

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