South Korea Faces Medical Sector Turmoil Over Increased Enrollment Quota

SEOUL, South Korea - In response to impending collective action by trainee doctors against the government's decision to increase medical school enrollment seats, South Korea's health authorities have mandated the submission of daily work logs by these professionals, officials announced on Sunday.

According to Yonhap News Agency, this requirement comes as trainee doctors at five major general hospitals in Seoul prepare for a significant protest, including submitting their resignation letters and planning a walkout in opposition to the government's recent announcement. This announcement detailed an increase of 2,000 seats to the medical school freshman quota for the next year, a significant rise from the current 3,058 seats. The decision has sparked widespread concern among medical professionals about the potential impacts on the quality of medical training and healthcare services.

The directive to submit daily work logs aims to mitigate disruptions in hospital operations and ensure patient care continuity, amid the government's pledge to take decisive action against striking doctors. An official from the health ministry explained, "The measure is intended to prevent instances where doctors return to work following a government order, only to participate in further collective actions."

By Friday afternoon, 235 trainee doctors had submitted their resignation letters, leading the government to issue orders for 103 doctors to resume work. Of those ordered back, 100 have returned, though the status of the remaining three is unconfirmed. Under South Korean medical law, non-compliance with return-to-work orders can lead to severe penalties, including the revocation of medical licenses for those who fail to comply and subsequently face criminal charges.

The Korean Medical Association, representing a large portion of the country's medical professionals, has expressed its intention to escalate their protest actions, potentially leading to an indefinite strike if the government persists in its threats against interns and residents opposing the enrollment increase.

The controversy has also led to operational adjustments within major hospitals, anticipating disruptions to scheduled surgeries due to the collective action. Additionally, students from 35 of the 40 medical schools nationwide have shown solidarity with the protesting doctors, planning to submit leave of absence requests en masse.

Public opinion on the issue appears divided; a recent Gallup Korea survey of 1,002 individuals found that 76 percent of respondents see positive aspects in increasing the medical school quota, while 16 percent view the decision negatively.

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