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South Korea: Striking junior doctors are threatened with arrest and suspension

BMJ 2024; 384 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.q495 (Published 26 February 2024) Cite this as: BMJ 2024;384:q495
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. Montreal

Leaders of a rapidly escalating junior doctors’ strike in South Korea have been threatened with arrest, as the government declared a “severe” health emergency and refused to accept the mass resignations of roughly 75% of the country’s 13 000 interns and resident doctors.

More than 10 000 resignations have now been submitted, and at least 9000 doctors have left their workplaces, since the government announced a plan to increase the number of places at South Korean medical schools next year by 2000 to around 5100 entrants. A previous attempt to increase the number of medical school places collapsed in 2020, when junior doctors threatened to down tools during the covid pandemic. But this time the doctors face a government convinced that the public is on its side.

With one of the lowest doctor-to-patient ratios among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and a rapidly ageing population, South Korea faces a shortfall of 15 000 doctors by 2035, the country’s …

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