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Amid the doctors’ strike, the government of South Korea has decided to suspend thousands of medical licenses.

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The government of South Korea has taken action to suspend the medical licenses of thousands of protesting physicians in response to a strike that lasted for almost a month and affected about 12,000 doctors across 100 teaching hospitals.

There have been increasing reports of surgical cancellations, lengthy wait times, and treatment delays—including for emergency cases—raising concerns about how the strike is affecting frontline healthcare services.

According to the Ministry of Health, 4,900 doctors who are on strike may have their licenses suspended if they continue to disobey orders to resume work. After warnings of a possible three-month suspension that might seriously impede their road to becoming experts for at least a year, administrative notifications have been sent out.

The government’s plans to greatly increase the number of medical trainees in order to alleviate the shortage of healthcare providers in rural areas and the pressure on services brought on by the aging of the nation’s population originally sparked the controversy.

The anticipated increase in trainees starting in 2025, according to the striking doctors, will jeopardize the quality of care provided. These doctors comprise 93% of the trainee workforce. Rather, they are pushing for better wages and working conditions.

Tensions persist in spite of the government’s attempts to defuse the issue by providing better compensation and working conditions for student medics as well as a reassessment of 36-hour hours. There are growing calls for talks between the two parties, with the Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper highlighting how crucial communication is to breaking the current deadlock.

President Yoon Suk Yeol has come under fire for allegedly using medical reforms to further his party’s chances in the next national assembly elections, according to critics of the government’s recruitment strategy. The public is overwhelmingly in favor of hiring more doctors, according to a recent poll, although attitudes on how harshly striking doctors should be punished are still mixed.

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