Doctors mull all-out strike amid lingering deadlock over medical reform


South Korea’s largest organization of doctors was set to announce its future course of action against the government’s medical reform on Sunday, potentially including an all-out strike, amid the lingering walkout by junior doctors that has lasted nearly four months.

The Korea Medical Association (KMA) plans to hold a press briefing later in the day to release the result of a vote carried out last week on whether to launch a strike, including community doctors, according to medical sources.

About 12,000 trainee doctors at general hospitals have left their worksites in protest of the government’s decision to raise the number of medical school seats, causing disruptions in services at major hospitals.

Late last month, the government finalized the admission quota hike of some 1,500 for medical schools despite the protest, marking the first such increase in 27 years.

In an apparent effort to persuade trainee doctors to return to hospitals, the government has recently allowed them to seek jobs at other medical
clinics or go back to their training hospitals by withdrawing a return-to-work order and suspending administrative steps to punish them.

But junior doctors were mostly seen reluctant to return to their worksites despite the gesture.

Medical professors were also seen joining the move in solidarity with junior doctors, with those from four hospitals affiliated with Seoul National University voting to launch a walkout later this month, calling for the government to fully withdraw administrative steps to punish trainee doctors.

Amid slim chances of talks between the medical community and the government, pundits anticipate the country’s medical services may face further disruptions if the KMA decides to stage an all-out strike, including those from local clinics.

Others, however, suggest that even if the KMA initiates the walkout, local clinics are unlikely to show full support, as less than 10 percent joined the previous strike in 2020.

Source: Yonhap News Agency