Our Privacy Statement & Cookie Policy

By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies, revised Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can change your cookie settings through your browser.

I agree

South Korea publicly orders some doctors on strike back to work or face penalties


South Korea's government late on Friday publicly ordered 13 doctors, at least some of whom have been vocal about a walkout by roughly 9,000 physicians over a health system reform plan, to return to work or face penalties.

The public legal notice is the latest sign of the South Korean government's continued hardline stance toward trainee doctors participating in the walkout or criticizing the reform plan, after local police raided officials of a doctor's association on March 1, a public holiday in South Korea.

The country's health ministry posted on its website the license numbers and hospitals of 13 doctors, ordering them to return to work or potentially have their license suspended or face criminal charges.

"We would like to inform you that refusing to comply with the order to commence work without justifiable reasons may result in disciplinary action and criminal prosecution," the order said.

The government had given Thursday as the deadline for the doctors to return or face penalties, but health ministry data showed more than two-thirds of the trainee doctors, or nearly 9,000, had ignored the call to return to work.

Doctors are planning a mass demonstration on Sunday, with local media saying around 25,000 people are expected to join.

South Korea's government is pushing to admit 2,000 more students to medical schools annually from next year to address what it calls one of the lowest doctor-to-population ratios among developed nations.

Doctors fear the reform will erode the quality of service and medical education, but critics accuse medics of trying to safeguard their salaries and social status.

Junior doctors argue that the healthcare system's over-reliance on trainees is unreasonable and unfair.

South Korea's medical law allows the government to issue back-to-work orders to doctors when it sees grave risks to public health. Those who refuse to abide by such orders can have their medical licenses suspended for up to 1 year and also face up to three years in prison, the Associated Press reported.

(With input from agencies)

(Cover: A protester inside the National Health Insurance Service in Seoul, South Korea, February 29, 2024. /CFP)

Search Trends