Only 4.3 pct of new doctors register for internship training for this year

April 8, 2024

Only 4.3 percent of intern doctors have enrolled for internship training for this year, the health ministry said Wednesday, which is expected to leave a significant gap in the pipeline for new doctors over the next four or five years.

Out of the 3,068 new doctors slated to begin internships this year, only 131 have registered with the Council for Graduate Medical Training by the registration deadline on Tuesday, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The rest, 2,937 doctors, are not eligible for internship training in the first half of this year, the ministry added.

Medical workers walk at a hospital in Seoul on April 2, 2024. (Yonhap)
Medical workers walk at a hospital in Seoul on April 2, 2024. (Yonhap)

Internship training is a critical step in the medical education system of South Korea, requiring the completion of a one-year internship followed by a four-year residency in a specialty to become a medical specialist.

The low enrollment rate for internships raises concerns about the stability of the medical education system, which relies on a consistent influx of interns and resident doctors each year.

The shortage of interns will inevitably lead to a deficit in resident doctors and specialists, with ramifications expected to persist for the next several years.

The government is also concerned about potential interruptions in the supply of interns, residents and specialists.

“There are concerns about the future situation (such as disruptions in the supply of specialists),” said Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo. “The government will further examine whether there are other ways to deal with this.”

About 12,000 interns and resident doctors have been on strike in the form of mass resignations since Feb. 20 to protest against the proposed increase in the number of medical students.

The weekslong walkout has led to the cancellation or postponement of surgeries and other public health services at major hospitals.

Medical professors, who have filled the vacancies of striking junior doctors at major hospitals for weeks, also submitted resignations and began cutting their working hours Monday to cope with growing fatigue.