10 May 2024, 10:54
Update : 10 May 2024, 11:11

Seoul turns to foreign doctors as medical strike drags on

SEOUL, May 10, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - South Korea will allow foreign doctors to
work in its hospitals after a rigorous vetting process, the prime minister
said Friday, as a months-long strike by junior medics shows no sign of

Thousands stopped working on February 20 to protest government plans to train
more doctors, causing chaos in hospitals.

The government, which has already offered some concessions in a bid to end
the standoff, said this week that doctors with foreign medical licenses would
be allowed to practice in the country, in a bid to ease service disruptions.

After the move was announced, the head of the Korean Medical Association
(KMA), Lim Hyun-taek, shared a screenshot of a news report on newly graduated
Somali doctors with the comment: "Coming Soon."

The post, which was later removed, prompted widespread online criticism, and
was highly inappropriate and "clearly racist", Kim Jae-heon, the secretary-
general of an NGO advocating free medical care, told AFP.

The post "exploited Islamophobia and stereotyping against developing
countries", he said.

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said Friday the government will make sure to
"have a thorough safety system to prevent unqualified doctors (with foreign
licences) from treating our people".

The government is locked in a protracted standoff with the junior doctors,
who have refused to return to their hospitals, despite the health ministry
offering last month to scale back proposed medical training reforms for 2025.

The striking doctors have rejected the offer, demanding instead that the plan
to create more doctors -- which the government says is essential to combat
shortages and care for a rapidly ageing population -- be scrapped entirely.

The fight over the government's medical plan is currently before the Seoul
High Court, with doctors and medical students seeking to prove it is
unnecessary, and the health ministry seeking to uphold the government plan.

An administrative court has already ruled in the government's favour, and the
Seoul High Court is expected to deliver its decision next week, according to
South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

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