South Korean Doctors Rally Against Medical School Admission Quota Increase

SEOUL, South Korea — Rising tensions between the South Korean government and medical professionals are set to culminate in a mass rally this weekend, as doctors protest plans to increase medical school admissions. The Korea Medical Association (KMA), representing the country's largest group of doctors, has organized a demonstration in western Seoul for Sunday, signaling a deepening clash over the government's proposal to add 2,000 seats to medical school quotas starting next year.

According to Yonhap News Agency, approximately 20,000 doctors are expected to participate in the protest. The move comes amid escalating pressure from the government, which has resorted to legal actions against KMA officials, accusing them of inciting trainee doctors to join the strike. Recent police raids on the homes and offices of KMA officials have further intensified the standoff.

Despite the government's final appeal for junior doctors to resume work, with threats of license suspensions, the call has seen minimal compliance. As of Thursday afternoon, only 565 of the 9,510 striking doctors had returned to their posts, roughly 6 percent of those on strike. The Ministry of Health and Welfare has issued public notices demanding the return of leading striking doctors to work, hinting at impending penal actions.

The World Medical Association has weighed in on the dispute, criticizing the government's decision to increase admissions as unilateral and lacking in evidence and consultation with medical experts. The organization underscored the universal right to collective action by physicians, emphasizing the importance of patient safety during such actions.

Contrary to these criticisms, the health ministry defends its position, asserting that the decision was not made unilaterally and followed over 130 rounds of discussions with the medical community. Meanwhile, the Korean Health and Medical Workers' Union has raised alarms about the growing healthcare gap exacerbated by the strike, pointing to delayed surgeries and treatments jeopardizing patient care.

The government's initiative aims to address doctor shortages in rural areas and specialized fields amid an aging population. However, doctors argue that the quota increase will compromise medical education quality and elevate patient care costs, advocating instead for improved compensation for specialists and enhanced legal protections against malpractice lawsuits.

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