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CNA explains: Why thousands of doctors in South Korea are striking – and defying deadlines to return to work

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Suggested blurb: Doctors in training say they are underpaid and overworked.

Thousands of young doctors in South Korea walked off the job last week to protest the government’s plan to increase the number of students admitted to medical schools.

Striking trainee doctors continued their union action after the deadline of Thursday (February 29) to return to work and now face prosecution and suspension of their medical license.

Why are young doctors protesting?

Doctors, who are considered essential workers in South Korea, are not allowed by law to strike.

But some 9,000 medical interns and residents – about 80 percent of the trainee workforce – have been on strike since February 20, disrupting services at major hospitals, which have been forced to cancel surgeries and turn away some patients.

Most striking doctors remained on leave Friday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Their main complaint?

President Yoon Suk-yeol’s government wants to increase medical school admissions by 2,000 a year from the current 3,058 to ease the doctor shortage and looming demographic crisis. The plan aims to reach 10,000 doctors by 2035.

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