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Doctors refusing walkout protest 'coercion' to join medical strike

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : March 24, 2024 - 15:35

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A poster created by the Korean Medical Association opposing the government plan to increase the medical school enrollment quota is affixed at a university hospital in Seoul, March 21. (Yonhap) A poster created by the Korean Medical Association opposing the government plan to increase the medical school enrollment quota is affixed at a university hospital in Seoul, March 21. (Yonhap)

Trainee doctors and medical school students not participating in a nationwide walkout released a statement Saturday, calling for other medical staff to respect their decision not to walk out on patients.

Medical Students and Trainee Doctors With Different Opinion, known locally as Dasaengui, posted a statement on its social media page urging colleagues to cease what the group has labeled "authoritative ostracizing and violent coercion" against them to join the walkout.

"Doctors wishing to return to work or participate in classes are being demanded to issue an apology at some (medical) schools, which is unacceptable in a democratic society," the group said. "Not only do such actions severely infringe upon their rights, it is basically threatening them to join the collective action."

Dasaengui also demanded medical schools stop holding votes with an open ballot system, saying it leads to anyone opposing the walkout to be labeled as a "traitor."

"Unless we put an end to the authoritarian practice of an open ballot system and calling on the phone (to put pressure on anyone) who doesn't participate (in the walkout), the leave of absence by medical students (for the walkout) cannot be regarded as 'voluntary,'" the group said. It called for the student councils of medical schools to protect students who may not want to participate in the walkout.

Trainee doctors and medical students across the country have been participating in a monthlong walkout in protest of a government plan to increase the medical school enrollment quota by 2,000 by 2025. The Health Ministry said that this week it will begin suspending the medical licenses of trainee doctors who have defied return-to-work orders.

Some 90 percent of the 13,000 interns and resident doctors in South Korea have been off the job since Feb. 20, leading to a major void in medical services across the country. The government last week attempted to address the issue by deploying military doctors and calling on some 5,000 retired doctors.