South Korea Continues to Increase Medical School Admissions despite of Trainee Physician's Strike

SEOUL (Reuters) - In an effort to push through an admissions increase that has sparked a nationwide walkout by trainee physicians, South Korea said on Thursday that its medical schools will admit about 1,500 more students the next year.The Korean Medical Association, which represents a significant portion of South Korea's medical community, claims that an increase in admissions without proper preparation threatens the integrity of medical education and the healthcare system. Among other medical associations and unions, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians support the demands of resident physicians and express concerns about potential reductions in the standard of treatment of patients.

The Decision to Increase Medical School Admissions in South Korea

With plans to admit around 1,500 more students the next year, South Korea has declared a major rise in medical school admissions. This choice was made due to the urgent necessity to address the anticipated shortage of doctors; if nothing is done, forecasts show that South Korea may lack 15,000 doctors by 2035. The government's program intends to support vital medical services in a number of crucial disciplines, which are now experiencing a rising shortage, such as emergency medicine, obstetrics, gynecology, and thoracic surgery.

In response to the urgent need for more medical professionals, the total admissions quota for the country's 40 medical schools will rise from 3,058 to 5,058 starting from the 2025 academic year . This marks the first significant rise in nearly three decades, with the last increase occurring when Jeju National University opened its medical school in 1998 . The government has also planned to decentralize the medical profession by enhancing healthcare services in rural areas, thus addressing the severe shortage of surgeons, obstetricians, and pediatricians in these regions .

Challenges Facing the South Korean Healthcare System

The South Korean government and healthcare organizations are addressing the crisis by introducing initiatives like the "Regional Medical Care Reinforcement" package, which encourages doctors to work in underserved areas. However, the medical community is skeptical, arguing that rapid increases in medical student numbers without adequate resources will not effectively address the underlying issues.

The South Korean government is committed to healthcare reform, despite ongoing strikes and disputes within the medical community. Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong has reiterated the government's determination to enhance local medical services and prepare for future healthcare demands. Plans to increase the number of physician assistant nurses are being considered to alleviate the doctor shortage. Alternatives to traditional medical training paths include easing regulations for overseas-licensed doctors to practice in South Korea and increasing admissions to medical schools gradually over several years. Dialogue and negotiation are essential in resolving the crisis, as stakeholders, including the Korean Medical Association, emphasize the need for meaningful engagement to find mutually acceptable solutions.


Medical experts and the government of South Korea are confronting a notable surge in medical school enrollment, underscoring the difficulties confronting the nation's healthcare infrastructure. Opposition to the government's plan to handle the looming doctor shortage has brought to light worries about the decline in educational standards and the fair allocation of healthcare resources. The Korean Medical Association's plans for a demonstration demonstrate how deeply concerned doctors are about the repercussions of the admissions increase. A resolution that upholds the dual objectives of increasing access to medical careers and guaranteeing the best standards of patient care and medical education will require stakeholders to have frank conversations, reevaluate healthcare and educational initiatives, and come to a consensus during this crisis.