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South Korea: Junior doctors’ strike escalates as senior doctors submit mass resignations in support

BMJ 2024; 384 doi: (Published 28 March 2024) Cite this as: BMJ 2024;384:q768
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. Montreal

Senior doctors and medical professors at South Korean teaching hospitals began submitting resignations on 25 March, showing support for junior doctors striking over the government’s plan to increase medical school places from about 3100 to 5100 in a single year.

With an ageing population, the lowest doctor-to-patient ratio in the developed world, and some of the highest doctor pay, the government’s plan to increase physician numbers has broad public support. In a February Gallup poll, 76% of South Koreans backed the plan and only 16% were against.

But most junior doctors are fiercely opposed and have been on strike since 20 February. They argue that physician quality will suffer and that new doctors will not take up jobs in rural and underserved areas but will cluster in cities in high paid specialties like dermatology and plastic surgery. They also suggest that more doctors will lead to more unnecessary treatments in the largely privatised medical system.

Medical school leaders say that they were poorly consulted when universities scrambled to outbid each other in offering new places to the government. “Increasing medical school admissions will not …

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