Seoul court dismisses doctors' bid to halt plan to increase medical school quotas

Doctors staging a rally against the government's medical policy in Seoul, South Korea, on March 3, 2024. - AP

SEOUL: A Seoul court on Thursday (May 16) rejected a request by doctors and medical students to stop a government plan to increase medical school quotas, as a months-long strike by junior medics drags on.

Thousands of medics stopped working on Feb 20 to protest government plans to train more doctors, causing chaos in hospitals, and forcing cancellations of key treatments including chemo.

Citing shortages and a rapidly-aging population, the government is seeking to train hundreds more doctors each year, prompting backlash from junior medics and students, who have taken the case to court to try and block the change.

An administrative court last month had already ruled in the government's favour, and the Seoul High Court on Thursday again dimissed the doctors' and students' request.

"The application from medical school professors, trainee doctors, and medical school applicants was dismissed, as it was determined that they are not the direct parties affected by this case's disposition," the court said in a statement.

The court's spokesperson told AFP that the doctors and students can appeal, and it would go to the Supreme Court.

Junior doctors have refused to return to their hospitals, despite the health ministry offering last month to scale back proposed medical training reforms for the academic year of 2025.

The striking doctors have rejected the offer, demanding instead that the plan to create more doctors -- which the government says is essential -- be scrapped entirely.

It is unclear whether trainee doctors, who play a key role in emergency procedures and surgeries at general hospitals, will return to work following court's announcement.

The plan is broadly popular with the public, and proponents of it say doctors are simply trying to safeguard their salaries and social status. - AFP

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