Doctors pushed ahead with a one-day strike Monday in protest of the government's medical policy, including one allowing telemedicine and profit-oriented hospitals.
The massive walkout by doctors, the first of its kind in 14 years, involves medical clinics and interns and resident physicians working in hospitals. The exact number of participating medical clinics was yet unknown.
"We oppose the government's plan to allow remote medical examinations and treatment, as well as for-profit hospitals, and can no longer stand the country's wrong health insurance and medical systems," the Korean Medical Association, which represents 100,000 doctors around the country, said of the main reason for their strike.
Members of the association voted to take the collective action earlier this month.
The doctors' group also argues that exceptionally low charges for medical treatment often lead to over-diagnosis and excessive treatment.
After the one-day strike, doctors will hold another round of walkout for six days from March 24-29 depending on the result of possible negotiations with the government, the association said.
The walkout on Monday, usually the busiest day of the week, was expected to cause inconvenience for patients and partly cripple work at some general hospitals with striking medical residents.
The government began operating an emergency medical system in which public health centers and other public medical facilities will extend their work hours in order to minimize damage from the collective shutdown of hospitals. (Yonhap)