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Critical court decision looms over fate of govt.'s plan to hike medical school quota

By Yonhap

Published : May 16, 2024 - 10:27

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A doctor and patients at a hospital in Seoul (Yonhap) A doctor and patients at a hospital in Seoul (Yonhap)

An appellate court in Seoul was to deliver a critical ruling Thursday that would determine the fate of the government's highly contested plan to increase the nationwide medical school admission quota, officials said.

The Seoul High Court will issue a ruling at around 5 p.m. on an injunction filed by the medical community seeking to halt the government's plan to increase the medical school quota by 2,000, court officials said.

A court rejection of the request would pave the way for the government to finalize the first medical school quota hike in 27 years, being sought to address chronic shortages in essential but unpopular medical fields as well as remote rural areas.

If the court grants the injunction, it is likely to derail the quota hike plan, at least for next year, by effectively suspending medical schools from reflecting increased medical student quotas for their 2025 admission announcements to be made public by late May or early June.

Both the government and the medical community are expected to appeal a court decision against them to the Supreme Court, but a ruling by the top court wouldn't be possible before early June.

In March, the government allocated 2,000 additional medical school admission seats to universities, many of them to schools outside the greater Seoul areas, despite trainee doctors' collective action to walk off their duties at major hospitals in protest.

About 20 legal actions have been taken by the doctors' community and medical students to halt the quota hike, but no court rulings have been made so far in favor of them.

The impending appellate ruling comes in the wake of a lower court's dismissal of the case, which cited the legal ineligibility of those who filed the request.

The Seoul High Court, to which the dismissal was appealed, has since requested the government to halt all proceedings related to the quota hike until a court decision is reached.

The ongoing court deliberations are centered around whether the increase of 2,000 seats was duly determined with sufficient reasoning and consultation.

The upcoming court ruling is expected to mark the culmination of the government-medical row over the quota hike plan.

The majority of intern and residents doctors have walked off their duties at major hospitals since late February in a collective action protesting the hike, causing disruptions in health care services nationwide. (Yonhap)