The Prime Minister calls on the government to be flexible regarding raising fees in medical colleges

SEOUL, April 7 (Yonhap) — South Korean Prime Minister Han Dak-soo said Sunday that the government remains flexible in its plan to increase admission quotas for medical schools for next year, amid a strike by trainee doctors to protest the plan.

Thousands of trainee doctors from across the country have left their jobs since February 20 in protest against the government's plan to increase the number of places in medical schools by 2,000 next year, causing a long standoff between doctors and the government.

“The government maintains a clear position that it will not bury itself in numbers,” Han said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency at his residence in Seoul. “The government maintains a flexible stance on all issues, including the quota for medical colleges.”

Han expressed his hope to hold talks with the doctors with a “flexible” stance, noting that if they find it difficult to present a unified proposal to the government, it is possible to form a presidential committee for discussions.

President Yoon Suk-yeol met with Park Dan, president of the Korea Interns and Residents Association (KIRA), one of the leaders of trainee doctors, on Thursday and promised to “respect” his position on the government's medical reform, including the plan to increase the number of trainee doctors. The number of places in medical colleges increased by 2,000, from 3,058 currently.

The government is pushing to increase admission quotas to address the shortage of doctors, especially in rural areas and basic medical fields. But doctors say that this increase would harm the quality of education and medical services, and create an abundance of doctors.

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Regarding Yoon's meeting with Park, Han said it was “very important” for someone representing the trainee doctors to start a dialogue with the president, and stressed that the government is making various efforts to hold talks with an open mind.

The Prime Minister said that efforts are being made to quickly form a social advisory body to discuss comprehensive medical reform, including increasing admissions to medical colleges.

He expressed his sorrow for emergency room patients who died without receiving treatment amid the long strike, and promised to strengthen the medical system through medical reform.

Regarding North Korea, Han said that the government remains open to dialogue, but noted that Pyongyang has continued its provocations, which has prompted Seoul to promote a policy of deterring the North, through cooperation with countries that share common values.

Regarding Russia's recent veto in the UN Security Council against expanding the mandate of the committee that oversees sanctions against North Korea, Han said this was a “deeply regrettable” measure, at the expense of protecting peace and security in North Korea. The Korean Peninsula and the world.

When asked about the potential impact of the results of the US presidential election in November on relations with Seoul, Han stated that relations between the two countries must be strengthened and cannot be weakened under any circumstances.

He also stressed the importance of trilateral cooperation between South Korea, China and Japan in maintaining peace and security in East Asia, as the three countries are holding talks to hold a trilateral summit next month in Seoul.

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Han said there is not much difference of opinion on whether a summit between South Korea, China and Japan will be held quickly, referring to recent high-level talks between Seoul and Beijing.

He added that although the date has not been set yet, the three countries are maintaining close consultations.

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