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S. Korean doctors vow to launch indefinite strike starting Sept. 7

All News 20:44 August 28, 2020

SEOUL, Aug. 28 (Yonhap) -- A group of South Korean doctors said Friday it has decided to launch a general strike starting early September in protest of the government's new policy that centers on increasing the number of students at medical schools.

The Korean Medical Association (KMA), which represents local doctors, said it has decided to launch an indefinite strike starting Sept. 7, expressing disappointment over the country's decision to submit a complaint against 10 trainee doctors who were refusing to return to work.

"If our demands are not met, we will stage a general strike starting on the day indefinitely," Choi Dae-zip, who heads the KMA, said.

Doctors on Friday entered the last day of their three-day nationwide strike in protest of the government's medical reform scheme despite a widened return-to-work order.

Doctors hold up signs criticizing the government at a Seoul hospital on Aug. 26, 2020, as tens of thousands of doctors went on a full-scale strike nationwide for a three-day run earlier in the day in protest of the government's medical workforce reform. The walkout, the second of its kind, was organized by the Korean Medical Association, which has some 130,000 members. (Yonhap)

Tens of thousands of practitioners have joined interns and resident doctors at general hospitals for the walkout, raising their voice against the government's move to increase the number of medical students.

Earlier in the day, the government ordered not only trainee doctors in the wider Seoul area but all across the country to return to work, warning of possible prison terms, as their actions could cause major difficulties, with the country facing a spike in novel coronavirus cases.

The government also reported to police 10 doctors for violating the order issued earlier this week in the Seoul region, making good on its repeated warnings of strong legal action against those who failed to come back to hospitals.

As part of the country's medical workforce reform plan, the health ministry is planning to expand admission quotas at medical schools by 4,000 over the next 10 years, starting in 2022, and to open a new public medical school, as it seeks to broaden the reach of health care services.

This will increase the number of students admitted annually to medical schools to 3,458 in the 2022-2031 period from the current 3,058, according to the plan.

Local doctors, however, say that increasing the number of new doctors will only lead to more competition among doctors and will not help ease the disparity in medical infrastructure among regions.

Doctors also protest against the plan to include traditional oriental medicine in the nation's public health insurance system, as they consider the field to be less scientific and vital.

colin@yna.co.kr
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