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Association office raided over walkout

By YANG HAN in Hong Kong | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-03-02 07:11

A man protests inside the National Health Insurance Service in Seoul on Thursday. JEAN CHUNG/BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES

South Korean police said they raided the offices of the Korean Medical Association on Friday, as the government contends with a doctors' strike that has led to chaos in hospitals.

Police in Seoul confirmed on Friday a raid on the Korean Medical Association, or KMA, the country's biggest doctors' group.

The investigation came days after the health ministry filed a police complaint against several current and former KMA leaders, who were accused of instigating mass resignations by trainee doctors.

Nearly 10,000 junior doctors — about 80 percent of the trainee workforce — walked off the job last week. They are protesting against government plans to sharply increase medical school admissions to cope with shortages and an aging society. Most of them defied the government's deadline to return to work on Thursday.

Only 565 doctors resumed work by the deadline, according to figures released by the health ministry.

Under South Korean law, doctors are restricted from striking. Earlier this past week, the government had requested police to investigate people connected to the stoppage.

With March 1 being a public holiday in South Korea, it has been suggested that more trainee doctors could return to work over the weekend.

The health ministry said it will take legal and administrative action against striking trainee doctors from Friday.

Another rally

The KMA is planning to hold a rally of about 25,000 people in Seoul on Sunday to protest the medical school quota increase.

The mass work stoppage has taken a toll on hospitals, prompting the government to raise its public health alert to the highest level. Around half of the surgeries scheduled at 15 major hospitals have been canceled since last week.

On Thursday, the Korea Alliance of Patients Organization called on the government to act.

It asked authorities to come up with preventive measures to avoid the recurrence of such collective action by doctors, so that emergency and seriously ill patients will not suffer harm or anxiety from similar incidents in the future.

Though the government has been mobilizing public hospitals to fill the vacuum in the medical service, Lee Ju-yul, a professor at the Department of Health Administration at Namseoul University, said this is not enough to cope with the strike.

"All citizens hope that this problem will be resolved quickly," he said.

Agencies contributed to this story.


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