(LEAD) Seniors at medical school to take 1-year leave of absence against quota hikes

SEOUL, Seniors at a medical school vowed Thursday to take a one-year leave of absence en masse in protest of the government's plan to raise the enrollment quota of medical schools. The fourth-year students of the college of medicine at Hallym University in the eastern city of Chuncheon unanimously agreed to take a leave of absence for one year in an effort to prevent the government's "medical reform for the worse," the school's emergency committee said in an online post. Last week, the health ministry announced a decision to increase the enrollment quota by 2,000 next year to over 5,000 in an effort to address the chronic shortage of doctors in rural areas and essential health care fields. Doctors, however, have threatened to take collective action, claiming the government has not had full consultations on the matter and the decision would compromise the quality of medical education and services. "The government's medical reform plan completely ignored opinions from experts. If realized, South Korea will never be able to become an advanced nation in the medical field," the post read. The students plan to submit their application letters to the school on the day, the committee said, calling on their junior colleagues and students of other schools to follow suit. A major association of medical schools, meanwhile, said it will carry out a survey of whether to join the move and take a one-year leave of absence to make a decision "within a few days." Members of the group, mostly students of 40 medical schools nationwide, have discussed what to do in response to the government's decision. "Delegates of the schools have all agreed upon the need for collective action. The government presented the unrealistic plan and threw the medical circle into complete disarray. Poor education will eventually do harm to patients," the association said. Source: Yonhap News Agency