The Korea Herald


Doctor fasts instead of joining medical strike

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : July 4, 2024 - 14:44

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Ko Beom-seok (Asan Medical Center) Ko Beom-seok (Asan Medical Center)

With medical professors at major hospitals joining the nationwide walkout of medical staff, a doctor at a Seoul-based hospital has chosen to continue practicing while showing his support by going on hunger strike.

Professor Ko Beom-seok, a breast disease surgeon at Asan University, said he has been taking nothing but water, salt and coffee since June 23. Ko said could not take part in the ongoing walkout because he felt he could not leave his patients. ut also could not turn away from his colleagues who are protesting the government's medical school reform.

Doctors across the country have been protesting the government plan to increase South Korea's medical school quota, which the government initially targeted to raise by 2,000 but ended up increasing it by 1,500 in May. Medical professors recently joined the ongoing medical strike that began with a mass walkout of trainee doctors in February.

Ko said his goal was not to let his fast get in the way of his practice. He did not tell anyone about the hunger strike, at least not until the story was publicized Wednesday, and has been doing his job as usual.

He vowed to keep working and fasting until he decides it is too difficult for him to treat patients.

The staff at the Asan Medical Center have joined the medical walkout by reducing their treatment of patients. The professors' committee at the hospital had projected that there would be 49 percent fewer surgeries on Thursday than the same day the year before, and the number of outpatient treatments will be down 30.2 percent.

The collective actions have sparked complaints from the public, particularly those in immediate medical need. A coalition of 92 patients groups across the country held a rally in Seoul Thursday morning in central Seoul to protest the walkout.