May 18, 2024
South Korean Doctors Consider Leaving Medicine

South Korean Doctors Consider Leaving Medicine For Other Careers Amid Health Care Standoff

South Korea’s healthcare system is facing significant challenges as thousands of junior doctors went on strike on February 20 in opposition to medical training reforms proposed by the government. As a result of the strike, surgeries have been cancelled, chemotherapy sessions delayed, and access to medical care has become more difficult for patients.

The proposed reforms aim to increase the number of doctors in the country, but junior doctors argue that these changes will lead to overwork, lower quality of service, and do not address underlying issues in healthcare provision. Many doctors are considering leaving the medical profession altogether due to the current circumstances.

One trainee doctor, Ryu Ok Hada, expressed his intention to quit medicine and pursue farming in a rural area, while another mentioned the possibility of relocating to the United States to run a food truck. The discontent among healthcare professionals is attributed to feeling overworked, underpaid, and undervalued.

The shortage of doctors in essential medical areas, combined with the concentration of healthcare professionals in the capital city of Seoul, has resulted in challenges for patients seeking treatment. Patients like Jang Sung-ja, who travels long distances for ovarian cancer treatment, have been further impacted by the strike, causing delays and uncertainty in their medical care.

Despite previous attempts to address doctor shortages in South Korea, past reforms have faced opposition from medical professionals. The current standoff between doctors and the government highlights the need for systemic changes in the country’s healthcare system.

President Yoon Suk Yeol has emphasized the necessity of the proposed reforms to address the country’s aging population and doctor-to-population ratio. The government has warned doctors who refuse to return to work of legal action, including suspension of their medical licenses.

While the government-funded health insurance system in South Korea ensures access to life-saving treatments, concerns persist regarding inequalities in healthcare provision, particularly in rural areas. Activists underscore the need for a more robust public healthcare system to address the underlying issues in the current health care structure.

As the standoff between doctors and the government continues, the future of healthcare in South Korea remains uncertain. Both parties face challenges in establishing a sustainable and equitable healthcare system that meets the needs of all citizens.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it.