South Korea Advances Medical School Admissions Hike Amid Trainee Doctor Strike

SEOUL – On May 30, South Korea announced that its medical schools will admit nearly 1,500 additional students in 2025, despite a nationwide strike by trainee doctors. The government maintains that the increase is essential to address a looming doctor shortage, predicting that without this measure, South Korea will face a deficit of 15,000 doctors needed to maintain essential services.

Medical groups, however, argue that increasing admissions will degrade the quality of medical education and fail to incentivize doctors to work in underserved areas or less popular specialties. They insist that improving pay and working conditions should be the priority instead.

Since late February, approximately 13,000 trainee doctors have been on strike, straining the healthcare system. The strike has forced hospitals to turn away some patients and reduce non-emergency surgeries.

The education ministry announced that medical schools would accept 4,610 students in 2025, slightly below President Yoon Suk-yeol’s target of 5,000. In response, the Korean Medical Association, representing private practitioners, organized protests across multiple cities on May 30 to highlight the perceived dangers of the admissions hike.

The Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union, representing a broader range of healthcare workers, has urged trainee doctors to resume work while calling on the government to consider all possible solutions. “The government must come up with the right medical reform alternative – one that trainee doctors who will lead the future of South Korea’s healthcare can agree on,” the union stated.

As the situation unfolds, the government and medical professionals continue to seek a balanced approach to ensure both the quality and accessibility of healthcare in South Korea.