Medical students file appeal after court denial of injunction to halt quota hike

May 3, 2024

Hundreds of medical school students have filed an appeal against a district court’s recent decision to deny an injunction they sought to halt their schools from increasing admission quotas, their lawyer said Friday.

Earlier this week, the Seoul Central District Court dismissed an injunction request filed by 485 medical students of three state-run universities to stop their university presidents from altering medical school admission plans.

The legal action was part of several suits filed by the medical community in resistance to the government’s decision to raise the nationwide medical school quota by 2,000 seats, starting next year.

Lee Byeong-cheol, a lawyer representing the students, said an appeal was filed with the Seoul Central District Court the previous day against the court decision.

He reiterated the students’ claim that the 2,000-seat increase decision was not scientifically grounded and the hike would infringe upon their right to education, accusing the court of turning a blind eye to the plaintiffs in favor of the government.

The previous day, the education ministry announced that universities finalized their decisions to increase the combined medical school admission quota for next year by around 1,500 seats, as some schools opted not to fully utilize the increased admission seats allotted to them by the government.

Medical schools are expected to publicly disclose their 2025 admission announcements by the end of May. However, this schedule could be disrupted if the Seoul High Court rules in favor of the medical community in a separate injunction request filed against the quota hike, which is currently under deliberation.

The emergency committee of the Medical School Professors Association of Korea said its members would not see patients for a week if the government finalizes its plan to increase medical school seats.

A press release by the committee said its members discussed ways earlier in the day to cope with what it described as the government’s “wrong” medical policy.

A committee official said there was no disagreement among the members of each medical school over the weeklong move, adding that other various actions will also take place.

The committee also announced plans for each member hospital nationwide not to see patients next Friday in response to heavy workload faced by medical professors, compared with smaller-scale moves on Tuesday and this Friday.

It said there are plans for hospitals not to see patients once a week based on their respective situations.

Meanwhile, Park Dan, the head of an emergency committee at the Korea Intern Resident Association, filed an administrative suit against Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong, seeking the cancellation of the government’s orders that call on trainee doctors to return to work and ban hospitals from accepting their resignations.

The government has issued the orders in response to the mass walkout by the young doctors since February after they submitted resignations en masse to protest the government’s medical school admissions plan.

Park said trainee doctors have the right to decide their work status, noting the government’s order to ban hospitals from processing their resignations infringes upon their freedom to choose an occupation.

“This is a violation of basic rights that goes against the prohibition of forced labor,” he said.