Korea braces for medical service crisis as full-scale doctors' strike looms

By Park Sae-jin Posted : June 10, 2024, 17:31 Updated : June 10, 2024, 17:31
Yonhap Photo
Yonhap Photo

SEOUL, June 10 (AJU PRESS) - Korea faces a high possibility of an unprecedented medical service vacuum as private clinic doctors have announced they will go on strike next week, along with university hospital doctors who have been in protest against the government's decision to increase the admission quota of medical school students.

The Korea Medical Association (KMA), an association of doctors in Korea, announced Sunday that the KMA committee of regional medical representatives has decided to go on a full-scale strike on June 18.

"In order to revive Korea's healthcare sector affected by the government's irresponsible medical and educational misconduct, we will all rise resolutely," KMA President Lim Hyun-taek said in a statement. Lim added that the KMA would form a special committee for the entire medical community to mobilize all means and methods to counteract the government's attempt to increase the enrollment quota of medical students.

The announcement was made two days after doctors at Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH), Korea's top medical institution, announced that they decided to go on strike starting June 17. They said that SNUH and three affiliated hospitals will indefinitely stop providing all medical services except for emergency rooms and intensive care units.

The decision comes after the government sternly warned trainee doctors, who have been on walkout since February, to return to work or face consequences. The joint walkout of university hospitals and 130,000 KMA doctors could create medical chaos in Korea, where a doctor sees an average of 38 patients every day.

Since last year, the government has pushed to increase admissions at medical schools to improve services and prepare for rising demand as the population ages. The medical sector opposes the move, claiming it would lower education quality and fail to solve staffing shortages.

President Yoon Suk Yeol announced in October the plan to boost new student admissions starting in 2025. Resident doctors at university hospitals started a strike in February through mass resignations.
기사 이미지 확대 보기