Medical professors in S. Korea mull all-out strike despite fixed quota hike

Medical personnel and patients walk in a general hospital in Seoul. - The Korea Herald/ANN

SEOUL: Despite efforts to wrap up the prolonged feud between doctors and the government over the implementation of the Yoon Suk Yeol administration's plan to increase the admissions quota for medical schools for 2025, medical professors say they are considering putting the brakes on the action with a possible en masse walkout.

Professors at Seoul National University College of Medicine and Seoul National University Hospital cast their votes on Thursday (June 6) to decide if they would push through an all-out strike, according to medical circles. Results were not available as of press time.

Initially planned for a single day on Tuesday, the voting deadline was extended to Thursday to allow for wider consultations as the government announced it would suspend administrative penalty proceedings against returning doctors and rescind an injunction against accepting resignation letters from the heads of training hospitals.

The general strike professors are mulling would most likely involve the suspension of outpatient care and regular surgery for all except essential and critical cases directly related to patients' lives.

In particular, the emergency committee has hinted that the strike could be organized in a way that all professors, except in essential medical fields, would take leave at once, unlike previous strikes in which professors participated individually.

Professors at other medical universities have not yet announced plans for taking collective leave, as Thursday's developments were expected to influence their decisions.

Pundits predict, however, that even if the medical professors declare an all-out strike, the number of professors participating may be limited, given that most had remained in previous walkout plans.The Korea Medical Association, South Korea's largest doctors organization, meanwhile, also started casting ballots on a general strike of its membership. Voting is to continue until Saturday.

The vote comes after the Korean Council for University Education confirmed a hike in next year's medical school admission quota, marking the first increase in 27 years.

About 12,000 trainee doctors have remained off the job since February in protest of the government's plan to raise the medical school admissions quota by 2,000, causing disruptions at general hospitals and emergency rooms. - The Korea Herald/ANN

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