South Korea to Increase Medical School Quotas for the First Time in 19 Years

SEOUL — The South Korean government is set to announce a significant increase in medical school enrollment quotas this week, a move aimed at addressing the persistent shortage of doctors in remote areas and specialized medical fields, despite facing opposition from within the medical community.

According to Yonhap News Agency, this decision marks the first expansion of medical school quotas in 19 years, with the current limit at 3,058 students.

The proposed plan involves raising the annual enrollment quota by up to 2,000 students from the existing cap, starting in 2025. This initiative targets improving the availability of healthcare services in non-metropolitan and remote regions and bolstering essential medical disciplines such as pediatrics and emergency care.

However, the government's proposal has met with resistance from doctors, who argue that increasing the quota will dilute the quality of medical education and services. They contend that alternative solutions should be explored to better distribute physicians across the country and enhance their compensation.

During a government-public debate on medical reform, health officials emphasized the urgency of the quota increase, citing a projected shortfall of 15,000 doctors by 2035. President Yoon Suk Yeol expressed his determination to proceed with the expansion of medical personnel as a crucial step towards revitalizing local and essential medical services.

In conjunction with the quota increase, the government intends to unveil a series of measures designed to motivate doctors to specialize in critical medical fields and work in underserved regions, which have experienced notable declines in medical staff numbers.

The health ministry highlighted the disparity in the doctor-to-population ratio, noting that South Korea's figure of 5.6 doctors per 1,000 people significantly lags behind the average among member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

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