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Govt, medical sector still haggling over state licensing exam

National 14:59 September 25, 2020

SEOUL, Sept. 25 (Yonhap) -- The government and the medical sector are still at odds over whether to give a second chance to fourth-year medical students to take the state medical licensing exam.

Senior students had been boycotting the state licensing exam -- which took place earlier this month -- in protest of the government's medical workforce reform plan.

The students joined a nationwide strike by doctors, urging the government to withdraw its plan to increase admission quotas at medical schools.

Representatives of doctors on Friday asked that fourth-year students be given a second chance to take the exam, saying that otherwise, general hospitals would suffer major manpower shortages next year amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The file photo taken Sept. 6, 2020, shows a man walking past the Korea Health Personnel Licensing Examination Institute in Seoul. South Korea's health ministry extended the application deadline for the state medical licensing exam to Sunday after test-takers withdrew their applications in protest of the recent medical reform plan. (Yonhap)

"We are faced with a serious situation where there won't be 2,700 new doctors next year," they said in a statement. The statement was co-written by five associations representing the country's major general hospitals.

On Thursday, fourth-year students from 40 medical schools across the country said they intend to take the exam.

The government, however, repeated its earlier stance that the medical students will not be allowed to retake the exam, as giving such a favor would be unfair.

The government has said public opinion is still overwhelmingly negative toward giving an extra chance to students who withdrew their applications.

Over 570,000 people have signed a petition posted on the website of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, asking the government not to allow the second chance for the medical students.

As trainee doctors returned to work after weeks of a strike over the government's policy earlier this month, the medical students' collective action has served as a lingering source of tension between the government and the medical sector over the proposed reform plan.

Doctors and the government have been at odds over whether to give senior medical students another opportunity to take the licensing exam.

Doctors insisted students be allowed to take the test even if they did not register before the deadline, while the government has rejected such a step.

The government's plan to expand the number of medical students by 4,000 over the next 10 years and open a new public medical school sparked tensions within the medical sector.

Thousands of trainee doctors staged a strike for 18 days starting in mid-August over the policy.

A group of doctors and the ruling party agreed in early September to end a nationwide walkout on concerns that the prolonged collective action could disrupt the health care system amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

In response to the deal, the government backed down and promised to suspend the medical reform plan in early September.


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