Gov’t to allocate additional 2,000 medical school seats to universities by late March

The additional 2,000 medical school seats that the government decided to create will be allocated to universities by late next month, the education ministry said Monday, sticking to the hike plan despite doctors' protests. The announcement shows the government has no intention to back down in the standoff with doctors, even as the strain on hospital operations grew day by day, with the walkout by interns and resident doctors entering its seventh day. The government maintains the planned increase is the minimum level required to address a chronic shortage in doctors, especially in rural areas and high-risk essential medical fields. But doctors argue that it would compromise the quality of medical education and services and lead to a surplus of physicians. On Monday, Park Sung-min, a high-ranking education ministry official, said the ministry will collect requests for the number of medical school seats that each university needs before distributing them to schools. "We aim to complete it by late March," Pa rk said. Conscious of the ongoing protest from doctors, heads of medical schools nationwide are reportedly considering asking the government to postpone the planned allocation until social consensus is reached about the quota hike plan. But the government is adamant about sticking to the 2,000 seat increase. "We have no plan to change the 2,000 seat increase plan," Park said. The education ministry also said that more than 12,000 medical students from across the nation had applied for a leave of absence as of Sunday in collective action against the government's quota hike plan. Students at 11 medical schools nationwide had boycotted classes in a separate collective action as of Friday. The collective application for school leave had not been granted in accordance with the ministry's stance that collective action does not constitute a valid reason for a leave of absence. Source: Yonhap News Agency