South Korea will add 4,000 medical students over the next 10 years to increase the number of its doctors and strengthen the response to future public health crises, government and ruling party officials say. Reported by Reuters.
The authorities noted the need to train doctors for potential outbreaks of infectious diseases worse than COVID-19, pointing to the risk of more frequent epidemics and a limited number of beds for patients.
To fill the gap, officials said they plan to increase enrollment in medical schools using a combination of new quotas, incentives for students in less profitable majors, and those who complete a decade of public health work in rural areas.
We will increase the quota for medical students to add more staff in specialized fields.
Kim Taeyeon, MP for the ruling Democratic Party of Korea
The plan is to increase medical school enrollment by about 400 per year over the next decade, before returning to a quota of 3,058, which has remained unchanged since 2006.
The government said it will provide full scholarships to approximately 300 students in fields such as epidemiology, gynecology or surgery, which are often considered unpopular in contrast to the more lucrative fields of plastic surgery and dermatology.
The Korea Medical Association (KMA) called the government’s plan unnecessary, however, saying it distracts from real problems in the public health system.
The National University Hospital Association welcomed the idea of increasing the number of doctors but raised concerns about the uneven distribution of doctors and health facilities, with the majority of hospitals concentrated in the capital, Seoul.