South Korean Government Issues Ultimatum to Striking Doctors Amid Healthcare Crisis

South Korean Government Issues Ultimatum to Striking Doctors Amid Healthcare Crisis

SEOUL - Young doctors in South Korea have been issued a final ultimatum by the government to end their week-long protest and return to work by the end of February or face severe consequences. The protest, which has seen two-thirds of the nation's residents and intern doctors walk off the job, is in response to the government's proposal to increase medical school admissions to combat a projected shortage of doctors in the aging society.

Safety minister Lee Sang-min emphasized the escalating chaos in hospitals due to the protest, warning of a dangerous situation in emergency services. The government urged the protesting doctors to prioritize patient care and hinted at legal repercussions for those who continue to strike, including possible prosecution and loss of medical licenses.

The protesting doctors argue that the government should address issues such as pay and working conditions before expanding medical school quotas. However, the government remains firm in its stance, with Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo announcing that those who do not return to work by March 1 will face a minimum three-month suspension of their medical licenses, among other penalties.

While senior doctors and private practitioners have not joined the walkout, they have voiced their concerns and called for the plan to increase medical school quotas to be scrapped. Despite opposition from some within the medical community, the plan enjoys broad support among the general public, as evidenced by recent polls showing approval rates exceeding 75%.

President Yoon Suk Yeol has championed the plan as part of a broader effort to improve medical services in the country. The government has outlined additional measures to incentivize doctors to work in underserved areas and critical specialties.

However, critics accuse the government of using the plan as a political maneuver ahead of the April general election. Medical professors from prestigious institutions like Seoul National University have called for a postponement of discussions on the plan until after the elections, alleging political motives behind its implementation.

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