Medical School Deans in South Korea Request Freeze on 2025 Admission Quotas Amid Doctor Strike

SEOUL – Leaders of medical schools across South Korea have called on the government to maintain the current enrollment quotas for medical schools in 2025 and to engage in discussions about future adjustments through a collaborative body with the medical community.

According to Yonhap News Agency, this appeal comes in response to ongoing disagreements between the government and medical professionals, exacerbated by a strike involving over 10,000 junior doctors. The strike, which started on February 20, is a protest against the government's plans to increase medical school seats by 2,000 from the existing 3,058 starting next year. In an attempt to address the impasse, the government has proposed establishing a special presidential commission on medical reform and has given universities the flexibility to set their quotas within 50 to 100 percent of the government's assigned figures for the next year. However, these measures have been rejected by doctors who are pushing for direct negotiations.

"The medical school admission quota for 2025 should be frozen and a consultative body should be formed with the medical community at an early date to come up with the admission quota for 2026 and beyond in a scientific manner," the KAMC stated. The association criticized the government's reliance on university presidents to make such critical decisions and called for immediate and prudent action to resolve the crisis.

The government maintains that increasing the number of medical school admissions is essential to address the doctor shortage anticipated due to rapid population aging and other factors, projecting a shortfall of 15,000 doctors by 2035. However, doctors argue that the proposed increase could dilute the quality of medical education and services, potentially leading to an excess of physicians. They urge the government to improve protections from malpractice suits and enhance compensation, especially in underserved areas, to attract more doctors to these locations.

The ongoing strike has significantly disrupted South Korea's healthcare system, especially in large hospitals where trainee doctors are pivotal in emergency and critical care.

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