Thousands of Korean doctors face license suspensions as Seoul moves to prosecute strike leaders | Trending Viral hub


Seoul, South Korea. Thousands of striking doctors in South Korea faced proceedings Tuesday to suspend their medical licenses, as authorities push for police investigations into leaders of strikes that have disrupted hospital operations.

Nearly 9,000 of South Korea’s 13,000 medical residents and trainees have refused to work over the past two weeks to protest a government plan to enroll thousands more students in the country’s medical schools in the coming years. The government ordered them to return to work by Feb. 29, citing a public health threat, but most have defied threats of license suspensions and prosecutions.

“For those leading the strikes, we are thinking about filing complaints with the police,” Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo said at a briefing. “But I tell you, we haven’t determined exactly when we would do it and against whom.”

On Monday, the Ministry of Health sent officials to hospitals to confirm the absences of striking doctors and initiate administrative procedures to suspend their licenses. So far, the government has formally confirmed the absences of more than 7,000 strikers, and on Tuesday officials would continue on-site inspections of hospitals and begin sending notices to some strikers about license suspension procedures, Park said.

Park said the licenses of striking doctors would be suspended for at least three months and that doctors would be given a chance to respond before the suspensions take effect.

“Doctors in training have left their patients helpless. They even abandoned emergency rooms and intensive care units,” Park said. “We cannot tolerate these irresponsible acts. “They have betrayed their professional and ethical responsibilities and have neglected their legal duties.”

Under South Korea’s medical law, doctors who defy orders to resume work can be punished by three years in prison or a fine of 30 million won (approximately $22,500), as well as a suspension of their medical licenses for until a year. Those who receive prison sentences can lose their licenses.

Observers say the government will likely end up punishing only the strike leaders, not all of the thousands of striking doctors. They say it would take a few months to complete the administrative steps to suspend the licenses of the 9,000 striking doctors.

At the center of the dispute is a government plan to increase the enrollment fee in the country’s medical schools by 2,000 starting next year, from the current 3,058. Officials said South Korea must add more doctors to cope with a rapidly aging population. But many doctors say universities are not prepared to cope with such a sharp increase in student numbers and that the country’s general medical service would eventually be affected.

The young doctors on strike are a small fraction of the country’s 140,000 doctors, but they represent 30 to 40 percent of all doctors at some major hospitals, where they help senior doctors during their training.

Many senior doctors support the young doctors, but have not joined their strikes.

South Korean police said they are investigating five senior members of the Korean Medical Association, after the Health Ministry filed complaints against them for allegedly inciting and abetting strikes by junior doctors.

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