July 13, 2024

S. Korea police raid medical association office over walkout


South Korean authorities conducted a raid on Friday at the headquarters of the Korean Medical Association, as reported by an officer to AFP, amidst the ongoing doctors’ strike causing disruptions in hospitals nationwide.

Approximately 10,000 junior doctors, constituting around 80 percent of the trainee workforce, initiated the walkout last week in protest against government proposals aiming to significantly increase medical school admissions to address shortages aggravated by an ageing population.

The government had imposed a Thursday deadline for medical professionals to return to work, warning of potential legal repercussions, including the suspension of medical licenses and arrests for non-compliance.

Although the health ministry disclosed no official figures regarding the number of doctors resuming duties post-deadline, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that the majority of striking doctors remained absent on Friday, exacerbating the strain on the healthcare system.

The widespread work stoppage has resulted in a substantial number of cancelled surgeries at 15 major hospitals since the inception of the strike, prompting the government to elevate the public health alert to its highest level.

Under South Korean legislation, doctors are prohibited from engaging in strikes, leading the government to enlist the assistance of law enforcement earlier this week to investigate individuals associated with the protest.

Seoul’s police confirmed the raid on the Korean Medical Association (KMA) office, following the government’s directives. In response, the KMA condemned the government’s actions as “intimidation tactics,” decrying the perceived shift towards authoritarianism.

The government defends its stance, citing one of the lowest doctor-to-population ratios among developed nations and aims to increase medical school admissions by 2,000 students annually starting next year. While proponents argue the necessity of the measures to address healthcare shortages, doctors express concerns over potential adverse effects on service quality and medical education, particularly regarding salary and social standing.

The KMA announced plans for a rally in Seoul on Sunday, with an estimated 25,000 participants expected to voice their grievances against the proposed reforms.

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