South Korean president slams doctor ‘cartel’ as strike drags on

Thousands of doctors are facing the suspension of their medical licences, but Yoon urged medics to return to their hospitals before the process was complete.

Successive South Korean governments have tried – and failed – to increase medical school admissions in the past, and Yoon said “the cartel of doctors had been strengthened” by every previous failure.

“We cannot repeat the same mistake again,” he added.

If the doctors’ community don’t like the government’s plan, “they should present the government a unified blueprint with clear scientific reasoning”, he said.

“If they bring an alternative that is more rational and reasonable, we can talk anytime.”

South Koreans will vote next week in a crucial election, with Yoon’s party trying to win back its majority in parliament.

The public initially sympathised with the government in the ongoing doctors’ strike, but recent polls have indicated sentiment has shifted, with nearly 60 per cent of people surveyed in a Dong-A Ilbo pool Monday saying the government should adjust the scale and timing of the reform.

The opposition Democratic Party slammed Yoon for being “preoccupied with the number 2,000” and urged him to adjust the reform plan “taking into account medical situations”.

“Yoon and the government must abandon their obsession with the 2,000-slot increase,” said opposition Democratic Party MP Shin Hyun-young.


If the government does not show more significant gestures to doctors, the current administration is not likely to make a breakthrough, Associate Professor Mi-son Kim from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s department of political science told CNA’s Asia First.

While Assoc Prof Kim noted that Yoon’s “cartel” comments did not surprise many people, given his populist leadership stance to garner public support, she said it was “a little bit exaggerating”.

“I don’t think it’s fair to describe doctors as running (a) cartel,” she added.

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