The Korea Herald


Govt. vows to continue efforts to mend discord with medical community

By Yonhap

Published : May 27, 2024 - 11:44

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Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo speaks during a meeting in the central city of Sejong on Monday. (Yonhap) Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo speaks during a meeting in the central city of Sejong on Monday. (Yonhap)

South Korea's health ministry said Monday it plans to continue efforts to resolve the ongoing discord with doctors following the finalization of the university admission plan, which includes the controversial medical school quota hike, last week.

The remark came after the Korean Council for University Education, an association of university presidents, approved an increase in next year's medical school admission quota last week despite strong protests from trainee doctors, finalizing the first such hike in 27 years.

About 12,000 trainee doctors, meanwhile, have remained off the job since Feb. 20 in protest of the plan to raise the medical school admissions quota by 2,000, causing disruptions at general hospitals and emergency rooms.

"The government will maintain the emergency medical system to minimize the medical vacuum and make its best efforts to address the ongoing conflict," Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo said during a government meeting.

The previous day, President Yoon Suk Yeol called for measures to ensure medical schools implement the hike in their quotas to timely reflect the first such change in nearly three decades.

"As the president requested, each ministry will carry out necessary measures without delay," Park said.

In a separate briefing, Deputy Health Minister Jun Byung-wang noted that it is significant that some medical professors are considering canceling their weekly day off, which was launched in solidarity with junior doctors.

"However, it is also alarming that the professors are calling for a complete repeal of the medical quota hike while vowing to suspend offering advice on the government's health care policies," Jun added.

Park, meanwhile, renewed the call for junior doctors to return to their worksites.

"Now is the time to end the conflict and standoff that intensify the anxiety and pain of the people," Park added.

The health ministry, meanwhile, requested hospitals carry out individual consultations with junior doctors through Tuesday and submit the results by the following day.

Amid slim chances for dialogue between the government and the medical community, however, it is uncertain how many junior doctors will end the walkout, especially as doctors continue to call for fully scrapping the reform plan.

The Medical Professors Association of Korea, meanwhile, urged the government to suspend the medical reform until the top court delivers a verdict on the injunction filed by the medical community to block the hike.

A Seoul appellate court rejected the injunction last week, paving the way for authorities to proceed with the reform.

"We urge the government to suspend the administrative procedures and cooperate with the trial," the association said in a statement. (Yonhap)