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South Korea’s president vows not to back down in the face of doctors strike

THE president of South Korea vowed today not to back down in the face of vehement protests by doctors against his plan to drastically increase medical school admissions.

President Yoon Suk Yeol labelled the walkouts by the doctors “an illegal collective action” that poses “a grave threat to our society.”

About 12,000 junior doctors in South Korea have been on strike for six weeks, causing hundreds of cancelled surgeries and other treatments at university hospitals. 

Many senior doctors at their teaching schools have shown their solidarity for the action by submitting resignations, though they haven’t stopped treating patients.

Officials say they want to raise the yearly medical school cap from 3,058 to more than 5,000 to deal with skill shortages as the population ages. 

But doctors argue schools can’t handle such an abrupt increase in students and warned it would eventually hurt the country’s medical services.

Doctors add that the government plan would also likely result in unnecessary treatments due to increased competition.

Some critics say doctors, one of the best-paid professions in South Korea, are simply worried that the supply of more doctors would result in lower future incomes.

In a nationally televised address, President Yoon said adding 2,000 medical students is the minimum increase needed to address a shortage of physicians in rural areas, the military and essential but lower-paying professions like paediatrics and emergency departments. 

Mr Yoon said: “Increasing the number of doctors is a state project that we can’t further delay.

“I can’t tolerate an attempt to carry through their thoughts by force without due logic and grounds. 

“The illegal collective action by some doctors has become a grave threat to our society.”

President Yoon said the government is taking final administrative steps to suspend the licences of the strikers but added he doesn’t want to punish the young doctors. 


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