Korea’s medical schools seek 3,401 more admissions for 2025

By Kim Hyang-mi, Min Seo-young 2024. 3. 6. 17:51
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A lecture hall at a medical school in Gyeonggi Province stands empty on Friday as the medical community‘s collective action movement against the government’s plan to increase the number of medical schools spread from large hospitals to medical campuses that opened for the new semester. Yonhap News Agency

The number of applications submitted by 40 universities nationwide to increase medical school admissions in 2025 was calculated at 3,401, more than 1.7 times the government's plan of 2,000. The government stepped up pressure, saying it would begin to give advance notice of license suspension to trainee doctors who have not returned to work and consider filing police charges against some of them. The government's sanctions on trainee doctors and the results of the survey of demand for increasing medical school admissions, which exceeded expectations, have led to a growing backlash, with medical professors filing cancellation lawsuits.

According to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarter on March 5, the Ministry of Education received applications for the medical school enrollment quota of the 2025 school year from February 22 to March 4, and 40 universities applied for 3,401 more students. All universities with medical schools wanted to increase their enrollment quota.

Thirteen universities in the Seoul metropolitan area have applied for a total of 930 seats, including 365 seats (826 current students) at eight universities in Seoul and 565 seats (209 current students) at five universities in Gyeonggi Province and Incheon. Twenty-seven universities in the non-metropolitan area applied for an increase of 2,471 (2,023 current students) seats. The government did not disclose the number of applications for the increase by universities. It is estimated that non-metropolitan universities have written to double their existing quota.

In a preliminary survey in November last year, 40 universities requested a minimum of 2,151 more seats and a maximum of 2,847 more seats for the 2025 school year. Medical school deans, professors, and students protested at the time, saying the survey failed to reflect their opinions. Despite the backlash, 40 universities said they hoped to increase their enrollment quota more than the previous survey.

Park Min-soo, the second vice minister of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, said in a briefing on the same day, "The results of the universities' applications reaffirm that the number of medical school admissions that can be immediately increased in 2025 will far exceed 2,000 on the premise of securing the quality of medical care, including compliance with evaluation and certification standards." He added, "In particular, the proportion of non-metropolitan universities applying for an increase was 72 percent, which is interpreted as expressing the region's strong hope for strengthening local and essential medical care.”

As a result of the demand survey, the government has gained momentum to push for an increase of 2,000 medical students. The government announced that the size of the increase will remain unchanged and that it will expedite the allocation process. It also began notifying more than 7,000 unreturned trainee doctors who missed the deadline (February 29) for returning to work of a three-month license suspension. The government also said it is considering filing a police complaint against the leading forces of the doctors.

Despite the pressure, trainee doctors are not returning to hospitals. As of 8 p.m. on the 4th, 9,790 residents in their first to fourth years, excluding new interns, were checked at 100 major training hospitals and 8,983 (90.1 percent) had left their workplaces.

There are also growing voices of opposition from the medical community. In particular, medical professors and students strongly protested against the results of the demand survey about increasing medical school admissions. Representatives of the faculty associations of 33 medical schools nationwide filed a lawsuit to cancel the expansion, demanding that the government halt its push to increase medical school enrollment. Professors at Kangwon National University College of Medicine cut their hair earlier in the day in protest of the school’s request for more than double the existing number of its medical students. Some professors said they would resign.

※This article has undergone review by a professional translator after being translated by an AI translation tool.

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