The Korea Herald


Medical professors go on all-out strike after quota hike confirmed

By Choi Jeong-yoon

Published : June 6, 2024 - 15:05

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Medical personnel and patients walk in a general hospital in Seoul. (Yonhap) Medical personnel and patients walk in a general hospital in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Despite efforts to wrap up the prolonged feud between doctors and the government over the implementation of the Yoon Suk Yeol administration's plan to increase the admissions quota for medical schools from next year, medical professors decided on Thursday to take collective action with an en masse walkout.

Professors at Seoul National University College of Medicine and Seoul National University Hospital announced that they would push through an all-out strike for an indefinite period of time "if the administrative sanctions against trainee doctors are not fully revoked and reasonable measures are not implemented to normalize the current health care situation," according to the group's emergency committee.

The committee said that 939 professors, or 63.4 percent of the 1,475 people who voted, were in favor of a “hard-line strike, including a leave of absence.”

Initially planned to be held for a single day on Tuesday, the voting deadline was extended to Thursday to allow for wider consultations as the government announced it would suspend administrative penalty proceedings against returning doctors and rescind an injunction against accepting resignation letters from the heads of training hospitals.

“For the past 100 days, we have been calling out the injustice of the government's policies and executive orders in various ways, but the government treated young people who refused forced labor as criminals just because they are doctors and misled (the public) into believing that the delay in severe and urgent treatments was due to trainee doctors abandoning their responsibilities,” the committee said.

The general strike includes the suspension of outpatient care and regular surgery for all patients except essential and critical cases.

The strike is to be organized in a way that all professors, except in essential medical fields, would take leave at once, unlike previous strikes in which professors participated individually.

Professors at other medical universities have not yet announced their plans for taking collective leave. However, pundits say Thursday's decision could impact others as they vote on taking similar action.

The Korea Medical Association, South Korea's largest doctors organization, also started casting ballots on a general strike of its membership. Voting is to continue until Saturday.

The votes come after the Korean Council for University Education confirmed a hike in next year's medical school admission quota, marking the first increase in 27 years.

About 12,000 trainee doctors have remained off the job since February in protest of the government's plan to raise the medical school admissions quota by 2,000, causing disruptions at general hospitals and emergency rooms.