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Monday July 22, 2024

South Korea says will not punish striking doctors

By AFP
July 09, 2024
Doctors strike and shout slogans during a rally to protest against government plans to increase medical school admissions and healthcare reform in Seoul, South Korea, June 18, 2024. — Rreters
Doctors strike and shout slogans during a rally to protest against government plans to increase medical school admissions and healthcare reform in Seoul, South Korea, June 18, 2024. — Rreters

SEOUL: South Korea said on Monday it would not punish thousands of striking doctors, in a bid to break a months-long standoff over medical training reforms that has plunged hospitals into chaos.

Around 12,000 junior doctors have been on strike since February, protesting against an increase in medical school admissions, which the government says will address one of the lowest doctor-to-population ratios among developed nations.

Doctors claim the reforms will erode the quality of services, but proponents of the plan have accused them of trying to safeguard their salaries and social status. The government has backed off on the scale of the reforms -- which originally envisaged universities accepting 2,000 more medical students each year -- but has refused to drop the policy entirely, as the trainee doctors have demanded.

The strike has continued, with hospitals forced to cancel key operations and treatments, and with patient groups staging protests urging both sides to end the standoff. “Considering the field situations and demands from the medical field, the government has decided not to seek administrative action against all trainee doctors, regardless of whether they return to work or not,” said Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong at a news conference.