(2nd LD) Moon calls for strong response to medical doctors' strike
(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details, Moon's plan to meet church leaders; ADDS byline)
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, Aug. 26 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday instructed the government to deal "strongly" with an ongoing strike by medical doctors nationwide, Cheong Wa Dae said.
He called for "principled law enforcement" to handle the problem in tandem with continued efforts to persuade them via dialogue to return to work, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kang Min-seok.
The president issued the message after members of the Korea Medical Association (KMA) went on strike earlier in the day in protest against the government's plans for the expansion of admissions of medical schools and other reform steps aimed at improving public health services. The KMA said it has more than 130,000 members.
Their collective action came as the country is struggling to battle a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.
The strike is scheduled to continue through Friday, having already affected surgeries in major Seoul hospitals. Thousands of trainee doctors have also walked out.
Moon told the government to make sure that "there's no vacuum in medical services by effectively operating the emergency medical care system," Kang said.
In a bid to strengthen Cheong Wa Dae's emergency response system over the issue, Moon's Chief of Staff for Policy Kim Sang-jo will lead a related task force in person. It has been led by Yoon Chang-yul, senior secretary for social policy.
The president also ordered the authorities to cope strictly with the refusal by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), a major umbrella union, to submit the roster of its members who participated in an Aug. 15 Liberation Day rally in central Seoul.
"There should be no privilege and discrimination in efforts to contain the coronavirus, because it's a matter related to the people's lives and safety," Moon was quoted as saying.
Around 1,900 people reportedly joined the demonstration held in the vicinity of the Bosingak bell pavilion in the central Seoul district of Jongno.
The KCTU argued that it had thoroughly abided by guidelines connected with the anti-virus fight, including temperature checks and distancing.
But one of the participants recently tested positive for the virus.
Moon earlier called for a tough response to some local churches refusing to cooperate with the government's anti-virus fight, as they have emerged as new clusters of infections.
In particular, many members of a church in northern Seoul, led by conservative pastor Jun Kwang-hoon, took part in a separate Liberation Day demonstration in Gwanghwamun, ignoring the government's repeated warnings. As many patients were linked to the church, Jun was among those who were ordered to self-quarantine along with some other churchgoers at that time, according to the health authorities. He was later confirmed to have contracted the virus.
Moon plans to hold a meeting with a group of major church leaders at his office on Thursday, in which he is expected to request support for the government's campaign against the virus and push for national unity.
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