SEOUL,  The government will give a second chance to take the state medical licensing exam to fourth-year medical students who boycotted it in protest of a medical workforce reform plan, the health ministry said Thursday.

Around 2,700 senior students boycotted the state licensing exam, which took place in September, as they joined a nationwide strike by doctors, urging the government to withdraw its plan to increase admission quotas at medical schools.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said the decision was made as general hospitals may suffer major manpower shortages next year amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The exam will be held twice next year, with the first one slated for late January, as a total of 6,000 medical students are expected to take the exams next year, the ministry said.

The government’s plan to expand the number of medical students by 4,000 over the next 10 years and open a new public medical school sparked tensions within the medical sector.

Thousands of trainee doctors staged a strike for 18 days starting in mid-August over the policy.

A group of doctors and the ruling party agreed in early September to end a nationwide walkout on concerns that the prolonged collective action could disrupt the health care system amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

In response to the deal, the government backed down and promised to suspend the medical reform plan in early September.

But the public has been skeptical about giving a second chance to the students as they claim their move to skip the exam was their own decision.

Source: Yonhap News Agency