The Korean Medical Student Association (KMSA) decided Tuesday to continue collective action such as refusing to sit the medical licensing exam and walking out of class, as 80 percent approved of the plan in a survey of students from 40 medical schools. Only 446 of the 3,172 students who are eligible for the exam, which runs from Tuesday through November 20, submitted their application. If the remaining 2,726 students do not change their mind, hospitals are bound to suffer a shortage of interns next year given the government said it would not accept more applications.
Medical students argue that the recent decision of the government and doctors to go back to square one and discuss the four public health policies again falls short as the possibility of the policies being implemented still remains. However, the government has taken a step back and decided to review them with parties involved once the pandemic is over, instead of rushing them, acknowledging that the policies would bring about seismic changes to the public health system. If students insist on collective action because they did not get exactly what they wanted, they cannot help but face criticism for being selfish. Medical professors who supported the strike are now urging them to trust them and come back to class. It is high time students stopped collective action and applied for the exam.
Meanwhile, some members of the ruling party are making the situation worse, saying that they will push ahead with increasing admissions of medical schools and opening new public medical schools which the government agreed to review again. Rep. Kim Seong-ju of the Democratic Party of Korea who is an assistant administrator of the Health and Welfare Committee said on the radio that the public health policies would proceed, arguing that having a discussion about the policies is different from cancelling them. This prompted the Korean Intern Resident Association (KIRA) to organize a strike again saying it goes against the agreement. Government officials and members of the ruling party should refrain from causing distrust and undermining the agreement that has been reached with difficulty.
The stance of the government is that it would not be fair if it gives one more chance for students to submit their application considering it has already given two additional chances. However, it can severely disrupt the supply of medical services. The government should keep the door open for students as the Medical Professors Association of Korea suggested if it were to resolve the situation.