With freedom comes responsibility, Yoon says to doctors

President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during a 16th Government-Public debate held in Daegu, March 4. Yonhap

President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during a 16th Government-Public debate held in Daegu, March 4. Yonhap

President Yoon Suk Yeol has said that with freedom comes responsibility, an official said Monday, emphasizing the importance of physicians to protect the health of people as trainee doctors remained off the job in protest of the government’s decision to increase medical school seats.

About 70 percent of the country’s 13,000 medical interns and residents, who play a vital role in assisting with surgeries and emergency services at major general hospitals, have been on the walkout in the form of mass resignations for nearly two weeks.

They argue that they are free to quit their jobs, defying the government’s appeals for their return.

“With freedom comes responsibility,” Yoon was quoted by a presidential official as saying during a meeting at the presidential office Sunday.

After the government-set deadline for their return passed, the government began taking steps to suspend the medical licenses of the striking doctors, while speeding up an investigation of former and incumbent leaders of the Korea Medical Association for instigating the walkout.

Gov't takes steps to suspend licenses of some 7,000 defiant trainee doctors

The walkout has led major general hospitals to turn away nonemergency patients and cancel about 50 percent of surgeries, according to the government.

Yoon has reiterated that medical reform policy is being pushed with urgency, stating the plan to increase more doctors should not be a subject for negotiation or compromise.

However, striking doctors claim the plan fails to address issues, such as overburdening and the lack of incentives for doctors specializing in pediatrics, and other essential health care services.

Yoon’s approval rating has hovered above 40 percent for two weeks in a row, a poll showed Monday, apparently on the back of public support for the government’s plan.

According to the survey by Realmeter conducted from Monday to Friday last week, the positive assessment of Yoon’s performance inched down 0.8 percentage point from the previous week to 41.1 percent and the negative assessment added 0.6 percentage point to 55.4 percent. (Yonhap)

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