The Korea Herald


Boycotting med students left out of exams

By Park Han-na

Published : Sept. 9, 2020 - 17:57

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

The Health Ministry is giving the cold shoulder to medical students who boycotted the annual state licensing exam to protest the government’s medical reform plans, saying it would be unfair to give them another chance to take the test.

“It is not an easy issue for the government to decide if consent from the public is not preceded,” Sohn Young-rae, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Welfare, said in a briefing.

Out of some 3,172 medical students who were eligible to take this year’s Korean Medical Licensing Examination, only 14 percent, or 446, applied to sit for it. The exam kicked off Tuesday and saw the lowest application rate since its inception in 2009.

Students who missed the licensing test will have to wait another year.

The ministry reiterated its decision not to allow additional applicants, as the test had already been postponed once and the application period extended amid the recent doctors’ strike. The doctors were protesting government health care reforms aimed at expanding the number of doctors in the country.

“Currently, medical students are refusing to take the state exam and we have yet to receive an official opinion from them on their willingness to enter the test,” Sohn said.

“Given this situation, it seems not necessary to discuss additional opportunities for the national examination.”

The medical community, including the country’s largest doctors’ group, the Korean Medical Association, has been urging the government to come up with a solution to give the students another chance to apply.

Thousands of trainees and their fellow doctors have returned to work this week, ending a weekslong collective action as the government agreed to hold off on its reform scheme and consider the opinions of medical professionals.

In regard to concerns about a potential shortage of medical professionals to serve as Army doctors next year due to the test boycott, Sohn said some 300 more doctors may be needed.

“For those 300 people, we will be able to manage through measures such as scaling back the number of doctors to be dispatched to troops or sharing available manpower,” he said.

Meanwhile, a survey released Wednesday showed that public sentiment does not favor the medical students who boycotted the exam.

According to the public poll conducted by pollster Realmeter on 500 adults, 52.4 percent of respondents said they were against the idea that the government should accommodate the medical students. Those who gave their assent to the idea accounted for 32.3 percent while 15.3 percent said they couldn’t make up their minds.

A national petition calling for not giving the medical students another chance had attracted more than 484,900 signatures on the Cheong Wa Dae petition site as of 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“If they were granted medical licenses through methods like special reapplication or a rescue plan, they will show another collectivist behavior in a desperately dangerous situation if the country faces another crisis,” the petition said. 

By Park Han-na (