South Korean Government Accuses Medical Professors of Blackmail Over Collective Resignations

SEOUL - South Korea's Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo has leveled accusations of blackmail against medical professors who have decided to collectively resign in protest against the government's plans to increase medical school admissions.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the government remains firm on its decision to raise the medical school enrollment quota by 2,000, up from the existing 3,058 slots, despite strong opposition from the medical community. This stance comes amid ongoing protests from interns and resident doctors, who have been off the job for nearly a month, arguing that the increase would lead to an oversupply of doctors, thereby diluting the quality of medical education and services.

The situation escalated when the emergency committee of medical professors declared, following a Friday night meeting, that faculty members from 16 medical schools would submit their resignations en masse on March 25, seeking to end the standoff. Park criticized this move as a significant form of blackmail against the populace, emphasizing the need to end collective actions within the medical sector.

The government also dismissed demands for higher health insurance payments to doctors, particularly in undermanned essential sectors, warning that such increases without expanding the number of medical students could lead to a substantial rise in health insurance premiums.

The controversy further intensified with Joo Yeong-Soo, chief of the National Medical Center (NMC), condemning the professors' planned mass resignation. He argued that siding with the striking doctors would not contribute to resolving the dispute. Joo expressed disappointment, particularly with the NMC specialists who supported the strike, stating their actions were misaligned with the hospital's public service commitment.

The government's push to expand medical student numbers aims to prepare for South Korea's rapidly aging population and to address doctor shortages in rural and critical care areas. However, the medical community insists that the quota increase will compromise educational quality and elevate healthcare costs. They are urging the government to prioritize addressing issues such as undercompensation for specialists and enhancing legal protections against excessive medical malpractice lawsuits.

Despite the medical community's grievances, Vice Health Minister Park maintained that the government could not condone medical professionals abandoning their duties over policy disagreements, criticizing the stance of the professors as a challenge to the rule of law.

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