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Korean medical leaders at odds

SEOUL (ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES) – The leaders of South Korea’s trainee doctors and the largest physicians’ group are engaged in a heated dispute amid an ongoing standoff with the government, suggesting a potential rift within the medical community.

Park Dan, head of the Korean Intern Resident Association, criticised Korean Medical Association leader Lim Hyun-taek for his handling of the situation. 

Lim had asserted that communications with the medical community would be unified under the KMA.

“Why does Lim keep insisting he’s at the centre? It’s mid-June, and it’s time for Lim to act, not talk,” Park posted on Facebook Thursday.

Park further accused Lim of putting only trainee doctors and students on the front lines and stated that he had never agreed with Lim on a unified channel or unified demands.

Park reiterated that his group’s stance remains unchanged regarding its demands, which includes the Yoon Suk Yeol administration scrapping the planned hike of the medical school quota by up to 2,000 for the 2025 school year.

Lim fired back, saying in a media interview that the KMA could leave the matter solely to the government and the KIRA if that is what the trainee doctors want.

A patient and a doctor are seen at a hospital in Seoul on Wednesday. PHOTO: ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES SOURCE

“If (the KIRA) wishes the KMA not to be concerned with the trainee doctors’ problem anymore, the KMA no longer wants to be involved,” he said, adding that the group will “carefully consider” withdrawing its involvement.

Lim is slated to meet with representatives of the ruling People Power Party on Friday afternoon to discuss the ongoing standoff.

A large portion of trainee doctors, medical students and physicians across the country have been participating in a walkoff since February in protest of the government’s plan to raise the quota for medical school admissions. 

The administration in April suggested a compromise that would allow medical schools to adjust the quotas within a range of 50 to 100 per cent of the allocated slots, but the medical community rejected it and maintained that the discussion should start from scratch.

Meanwhile, the Medical Professors Association of Korea said Wednesday that it has decided to join the one-day shutdown of medical services on Tuesday next week planned by the KMA.

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