South Korea set to adjust medical reforms in bid to end walkout, say media reports

By Thomson Reuters Apr 18, 2024 | 9:43 PM

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s government is expected to announce on Friday it is willing to adjust plans to raise medical school admissions in a bid to end a walkout by junior doctors and in the wake of the ruling party’s crushing election defeat, media reports said.

The country’s healthcare system is under pressure due to a prolonged stalemate between the government and doctors over plans to boost medical school admissions by 2,000 from 3,000 starting in 2025.

On Thursday, some medical school deans suggested scaling back the increase by up to half and allowing universities flexibility to determine their quotas, as a potential way to reach a compromise.

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo will convene an intra-agency meeting and is likely to accept that request, and hold a briefing to unveil the decision at around 3 p.m. (0600 GMT), the Yonhap news agency said, citing his office.

Han’s office was not immediately available for comment. President Yoon Suk Yeol’s office did not immediately provide comment and the health ministry also did not comment but confirmed Han’s planned briefing.

President Yoon has been pushing to add more doctors as an integral element of his medical reforms, an idea that has strong public support amid a shortage of physicians outside the greater Seoul area and in essential medical disciplines including emergency care and paediatrics.

The standoff had emerged as a key issue in last week’s legislative elections, in which Yoon’s ruling party failed to retake a majority in the opposition-controlled parliament despite his attempt to display flexibility.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Ed Davies)