South Korea vows stern response to illegal acts ahead of doctors' collective action

by IANS |

Seoul, June 13 (IANS) Any illegal acts related to the collective action by doctors will be dealt with sternly, the South Korean government said on Thursday, as medical professors and community doctors plan to stage walkouts in protest against the medical school quota hike.

The Korea Medical Association (KMA), the biggest doctors' group, plans a one-day general strike on Tuesday, while medical professors at major hospitals have decided to stage indefinite walkouts starting next week, raising concerns about a potential medical crisis, Yonhap news agency reported.

The KMA is demanding that the government suspend the proceedings regarding the medical school quota hike for 2025.

"The government will try to persuade doctors until the last moment to prevent their planned collective walkouts. In the meantime, any illegal acts will be met with a stern response," Lee Han-kyung, the interior ministry's chief disaster management official, said during a government meeting.

The government will also maintain an emergency healthcare system to minimise the impact of a potential medical vacuum, Lee said, urging doctors to refrain from walkouts.

"I ask you to prioritise the important value of human lives when making any decisions," the senior official said.

The health ministry also stressed that such a collective action would violate the medical law and be subject to punishment.

"Without due reason, medical staff or hospitals are not allowed to refuse requests for medical treatment and relevant services. The unilateral cancellation of patients' reservations can constitute a refusal as banned by law," Deputy Health Minister Jun Byung-wang said during a separate briefing.

"The government will sternly respond to any illegality while maintaining the emergency system by prioritising the lives and health of the people," he added.

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