The Korea Herald


Court's ruling set to shape path of medical school expansion

By Park Jun-hee

Published : May 12, 2024 - 15:33

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A medical staff and a patient walk outside a hospital in Seoul (Yonhap) A medical staff and a patient walk outside a hospital in Seoul (Yonhap)

The Korean government's plan to increase the number of medical students starting next year will soon take shape as the Seoul High Court is expected to deliver its decision this week on the medical circle's request to suspend the implementation of the planned medical student quota hike.

If the court rejects the appeal filed by medical professors, students and junior doctors against the government's hike in the medical school quota in 32 medical schools, the government will likely accelerate with the plan, given that the college admissions process for the 2025 academic year is approaching.

In this case, each university will have to reflect the change in its college admissions announcements by the end of this month.

While the push for the expansion plan still hangs in the balance as the finalized quota has yet to be determined, the government, on the other hand, could face hurdles in its plan if the court rules in favor of the medical sector's application to suspend the quota hike at a time when most of the administrative procedures for the plan have been completed.

The decision will come following the court's demand late last month that the government submit related evidence and documents supporting the decision to add more slots in medical school admissions by May 10 while reviewing an injunction request by the medical sector to halt the increase in medical school admissions.

In the first trial, the Seoul Administrative Court dismissed the medical circle's request to suspend the quota hike, saying that medical professors are "not eligible" to file an injunction request. It concluded that the medical professors' group doesn't have a "direct or detailed legal interest" in expanding or distributing slots in medical schools.

In a surprising move, however, the Seoul High Court requested the government submit the source of material behind its decision to have 2,000 more medical students starting next year and asked that the final quota not be approved until it makes the decision.

The Health and Education Ministries each said in a notice to reporters that the government submitted minutes of meetings on the medical school quota increase and other documents to the Seoul High Court on Friday to verify that the decision was based on "scientific grounds."

The medical community has called on the government to disclose the source of information it used to decide on increasing the seats by 2,000, as well as to scrap the quota hike and discuss a plan from scratch.

The 49 submitted documents include the summary of the meetings held by the committee responsible for allocating additional medical school seats to universities, the consultative body discussions between the government and the Korean Medical Association on the quota hike and the minutes and transcripts of expert committee meetings under the Health and Medical Policy Deliberation Committee.

"The government has sincerely prepared the relevant documents needed, and it plans to continue responding sincerely to such lawsuits in the future so that it (receives) no disruption in the health care reform," the notice read, vowing that it would accomplish the push for the expansion plan.

Doctors, however, have raised suspicions about the government documents and materials used to make the decision, saying they were "insufficient."

To prove them wrong, the Medical Professors Association of Korea last week teamed up with the Korean Academy of Medical Sciences to establish a committee to scientifically verify the government's basis for having more medical students.

The emergency committee of medical professors also warned that they would suspend treatment for a week if the government finalizes the expansion plan.