South Korea President Calls on Doctors to Resolve Dispute Over Medical School Expansion: ‘We Can Discuss It'

By Trisha Andrada

Apr 01, 2024 07:02 AM EDT

South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the 105th anniversary of the March 1st Independence Movement Day in Seoul on March 1, 2024.
(Photo : KIM HONG-JI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said that he would not drop his proposal to expand medical school enrollment. Still, he did provide some leeway for negotiations in the wake of weeks-long protests by the majority of the country's trainee physicians.

President Yoon Stands Firm Against Doctors' Strike

On Monday, April 1, Yoon took a firm stance on the issue in his hour-long speech to the nation. He said that the government's goal to add 2,000 more seats at medical schools a year was a basic necessity to solve the country's doctor shortage. He did, however, leave the door for discussions.

"They should make a unified proposal based on concrete, scientific evidence, not through collective action. If they come up with more valid, reasonable solution, we can discuss it for sure," Yoon stated, according to Bloomberg.

Yoon acknowledged that the trainee physicians' strike was inconveniencing patients, but he blamed the medical industry for putting their own interests above public health, Reuters reported.

READ NEXT: South Korea's Senior Doctors to Resign in Protest Over Medical School Expansion

Medical Professionals Criticize Government's Expansion Plan

In opposition to the government's intention to increase medical school enrollment by 2,000 beginning in 2025, over 90% of the country's 13,000 trainee physicians have been participating in walkouts since February 20.

The six-week strike by thousands of medical interns and residents in South Korea has resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of operations and other procedures at university hospitals.

Some senior physicians affiliated with their medical schools have resigned in solidarity with their cause, even if they have continued to see patients.

With an aging population and a lack of adequate healthcare, the government has declared a need to expand the number of university slots. This is the initial increase in university seats in over 30 years.

The doctors argue that the enrollment plan will not address the underlying issues, such as the oversaturation of metropolitan regions with doctors and the scarcity of specialists in lower-paying specialties.

READ MORE: Google Will Not Show Political Ads in South Korea Ahead of Elections

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