South Korean doctors oppose expansion of medical school places

Thousands walk out, arguing that government should address low pay and poor working conditions before going ahead

三月 5, 2024
Seoul National University Hospital building in Jongno-gu, Seoul city.
Source: iStock/artran

Doctors in South Korea have been warned that they could have their licences suspended if they continue to protest plans to increase medical school admissions.

In February, the government announced it would hike the number of medical school places available in 2025 by 2,000 to 5,058 ­in an attempt to tackle a shortage of doctors. The country has one of the lowest proportions of medical graduates among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, with seven per 100,000 people – higher only than Israel.

But both trainee and qualified doctors have criticised the decision, arguing that the government should address issues of low pay and poor working conditions before recruiting more medical professionals. Junior doctors staged walkouts in protest throughout February, despite the government issuing an end-of-month deadline to return.

President Yoon Suk Yeol intends to forge ahead with the plans to increase admissions and his government has threatened legal action against trainee doctors who have not yet returned to work, including the suspension of medical licences and possible jail time. Speaking on a televised broadcast, Mr Yoon said the plans to boost medical education were “not a matter for negotiations or compromise”.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare has begun hospital inspections to identify absent doctors, with almost 9,000 staff found to have left their workplaces as of 4 March.

The World Medical Association has supported striking doctors, writing in a statement that the government’s “unilateral decision” has led to “turmoil in the medical community”. The organisation clarified its position on 3 March, saying: “The current challenges in Korea result from governmental shortcomings, and it is the government’s responsibility to ensure reasonable working conditions and a strategic plan for medical education development.”

Following the new policy announcement, 40 Korean universities have applied to increase the number of medical places they offer in 2025, according to the Ministry of Education. The department said it intended to allocate the new places based on university capacity, the region the institution is based in and the “need to strengthen the educational capacity of small medical schools”.

Concerns about the opening up of medical training in South Korea are long-running, with medical students boycotting exams and staging protests over a similar expansion plan in 2020.



  • 注册是免费的,而且十分便捷
  • 注册成功后,您每月可免费阅读3篇文章
  • 订阅我们的邮件
Please 登录 or 注册 to read this article.