The Korea Herald


[Editorial] Yoon's speech

By Korea Herald

Published : April 2, 2024 - 05:31

    • Link copied

President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Monday the medical community should present a unified plan based on scientific grounds if it wants the government to revise its policy for medical reform.

In a televised speech that lasted for 50 minutes, Yoon reiterated the need for increasing medical school enrollment by 2,000 starting next year, and said that the government’s policy can always change for the better if better ideas based on reasonable grounds are presented.

"The number 2,000 is the minimum increase the government came up with thorough meticulous calculations, and (the government) followed sufficient and wide-ranging discussions with the medical community, including doctors' groups, until the decision was reached," Yoon said.

Some 12,000 junior doctors have walked off the job since Feb. 20 to protest the government's plan, while medical professors have submitted their resignations en masse to join the collective action.

The professors, who work as senior doctors at major hospitals, have vowed to reduce their working hours starting this week to cope with growing fatigue caused by the prolonged walkout by their juniors. Community doctors have said they will take similar action.

Lee refuted allegations that the government did not properly consult the medical community by listing the dates and number of times it met with doctors' groups and naming the groups involved.

Despite the government's requests, Yoon said the doctors' groups did not suggest a number for the admissions quota increase.

Yoon called on trainee doctors to return to work, noting that relevant procedures are under way to punish those who refuse to obey the government's return-to-work orders.

Yoon also asked for South Koreans’ support for the government’s medical reform plan.

Most South Koreans agree with everything Yoon said on Monday. Polls have shown that some 90 percent of South Koreans support the government's plan to increase medical school enrollment.

But that doesn’t mean public opinion can solve the current standoff.

The Korean Medical Association's spokesperson said that Yoon's address to the nation was "disappointing" as it was "no different from the government's previous announcements."

The president of a nation is not only the leader of a government, but also a politician whose job is to mediate social conflicts.

South Koreans can only hope the medical community can coordinate amongst themselves to sit down for meaningful talks with the government before it's too late.