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South Korea initiates measures to suspend licenses of 4,900 striking doctors

South Korea suspends 4,900 protesting doctors, causing surgery cancellations and delays in major hospitals since 20 Feb.



SEOUL: The South Korean government announced on Monday (11 March) that it has commenced procedures to suspend the medical licenses of approximately 4,900 junior doctors who have resigned from their positions and ceased work in protest against government reforms in medical training, resulting in a significant disruption to healthcare services.

The strike, which started on 20 February, stems from the government’s proposal to substantially increase the number of doctors in response to shortages and the challenges posed by South Korea’s rapidly aging population.

While authorities argue that augmenting the physician workforce is imperative, medical professionals contend that such a move would compromise the quality of healthcare delivery.

As of the latest tally, nearly 12,000 junior doctors, constituting 93% of the trainee workforce, remained absent from their hospital duties despite directives to return to work and the issuance of legal warnings, prompting the government to deploy military medical personnel and allocate substantial financial resources to mitigate the crisis.

The Ministry of Health revealed that administrative notifications, marking the initial phase toward license suspension, have been dispatched to thousands of trainee doctors who have defied explicit orders to resume their hospital duties.

“As of 8 March (notifications) have been sent to more than 4,900 trainee doctors,” Chun Byung-wang, director of the health and medical policy division at the health ministry said.

Warning of potential repercussions, the government has previously stated that striking doctors risk a three-month suspension of their licenses, a penalty that would significantly delay their progression toward specialization.

Chun implored the striking medics to prioritize patient care and hinted that those who return to work promptly may evade disciplinary measures.

While emphasizing the government’s commitment to dialogue and collaboration with the medical community, Chun emphasized the receptiveness of authorities to accommodate concerns raised during ongoing medical reforms.

The government recently unveiled a series of initiatives aimed at enhancing remuneration and working conditions for trainee medical practitioners, including a reassessment of the continuous 36-hour work period, a contentious issue among junior doctors.

The repercussions of the strike have manifested in the form of surgical cancellations, prolonged waiting periods, and deferred treatments at major hospitals.

Although Seoul has refuted claims of a full-blown healthcare crisis, Chun announced the deployment of military doctors to civilian healthcare facilities commencing this week.

Propelled by the objective to augment medical school admissions by 2,000 students annually from the forthcoming academic year, the government asserts its resolve to rectify what it perceives as one of the lowest doctor-to-population ratios among developed nations.

Despite legal constraints prohibiting doctors from striking, the Ministry of Health has solicited police intervention to probe individuals associated with the work stoppage.

Moreover, while the government’s proposals enjoy widespread public support, a recent poll conducted by local media indicates that 34% of respondents advocate for earnest negotiations between the conflicting parties.

In an editorial published by the Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper, it urged both the government and doctors to reengage in dialogue, cautioning against exacerbating public discontent.

The editorial stressed the urgency of finding a resolution through constructive engagement and compromise.

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At least they got the guts to retaliate.

Yet ANOTHER blunder by president Yoon. First he managed to piss off Kim Jong Un until the Norks have renounced re-unification with the South and declared them their enemy. Now he is proceeding to piss off the ENTIRE medical community.