South Korea’s Yoon urges doctors to end impasse over trainees
SEOUL: (Reuters) South Korea’s president on Monday opened the door to talks with the country’s thousands of protesting trainee doctors who are upset with his plan to increase medical school admissions.

It’s the first time Yoon Suk Yeol has signaled his willingness to seek a compromise on his healthcare reform proposals, as the country faces a worsening shortage of medical personnel.

In a 50-minute address, Yoon apologized for the inconvenience caused by the doctors, who walked out of their jobs en masse weeks ago.

But he also accused the medical sector of putting their own interests ahead of public health and hit out at critics for not offering any better options to ease the doctor shortage.

“If they want to argue that the scale of the increase should be reduced, they should propose a unified idea with solid scientific evidence, rather than taking collective action... If you come up with a more proper and reasonable solution, we can discuss it as much as you want.”

More than 90% of the country’s 13,000 trainee doctors have been staging walkouts since February 20 in protest of Yoon’s plan to boost medical school admissions by 2,000 students, starting next year.

They want the government to review their pay and work conditions first.

Many senior doctors, including medical professors, have also voiced support for the young physicians.

Some medical professionals have said Yoon’s administration had failed to consult in advance, and that his plan would do little to fix the ongoing problems young doctors face.

On Monday, Yoon again stressed the need for more physicians in one of the most rapidly ageing societies in the world.

South Korea’s population of 52 million had 2.6 doctors per 1,000 people in 2022, far below the average of 3.7 for developed economies.