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South Korean court rejects effort to block plan that would boost medical school admissions

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South Korean court rejects effort to block plan that would boost medical school admissions
News

News

South Korean court rejects effort to block plan that would boost medical school admissions

2024-05-16 20:08 Last Updated At:20:10

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean court ruled in favor of the government’s contentious push to drastically boost medical school admissions on Thursday, posing a setback to concerted efforts by incumbent doctors to spike the plan.

A standoff between the government and doctors opposed to the plan has shaken the country’s medical system for months. With broad support from senior doctors, more than 12,000 junior doctors, who are medical interns and residents, remain off the job since February.

The Seoul High Court rejected a request from striking doctors and other opponents to block the plan, which would raise the yearly medical school enrollment quota by 2,000 from the current cap of 3,058.

Lee Byung-chul, a lawyer for the doctors, said he will prepare to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. Lim Hyun-taek, the hard-line leader of an association of doctors, said his organization will issue a statement on Friday after reviewing the verdict.

Officials have said they want to add up to 10,000 doctors by 2035 to cope with the country’s fast-aging population and a shortage of physicians in rural areas and in low-paying yet essential specialties like pediatrics and emergency departments.

Doctors say schools aren’t ready to handle an abrupt increase in students and that it would ultimately undermine the country’s medical services. But critics argue that physicians, one of the best-paid jobs in South Korea, are mainly worried that having more doctors would lower their incomes.

The request to suspend the enrollment plan was filed by 18 people including doctors, medical students and others hoping to enter medical schools.

The Seoul High Court ruled the doctors and possible future medical students aren't qualified to file administrative lawsuits, calling them a third party in the case. The court acknowledged that current medical students can suffer possible damage from the enrollment plan, but still rejected their request to protect “public welfare.” It said a suspension of the recruitment plan could cause “immense” harm to efforts to increase doctors in rural areas and other essential roles.

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo welcomed the decision, saying the government appreciates “the wise ruling by the judicial branch.” He said the government will take steps to finalize medical school admission plans for the 2025 academic year by the end of this month.

Han urged the striking junior doctors to return to work immediately, saying it's difficult to maintain the country's emergency medical system without them. But South Korean media cited some striking doctors as saying they have no intention of reporting back to work.

The striking doctors are a fraction of all doctors in South Korea, estimated to number between 115,000 and 140,000. But in some major hospitals, they account for about 30% to 40% of the doctors, assisting fully qualified doctors and department chiefs during surgeries and other treatments while training. Their walkouts have caused cancellations of numerous surgeries and other care at their hospitals and burdened South Korea's medical services.

In support of their action, many senior doctors at their schools have also submitted resignations, though they haven’t stopped treating patients.

Government officials earlier threatened to suspend the licenses of the striking doctors but later halted those administrative steps to facilitate a dialogue with the strikers.

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo gives a public statement at the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 16, 2024. A South Korean court ruled in favor of the government's contentious plan to drastically boost medical school admissions on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo gives a public statement at the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 16, 2024. A South Korean court ruled in favor of the government's contentious plan to drastically boost medical school admissions on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, right, gives a public statement at the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 16, 2024. A South Korean court ruled in favor of the government's contentious plan to drastically boost medical school admissions on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, right, gives a public statement at the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 16, 2024. A South Korean court ruled in favor of the government's contentious plan to drastically boost medical school admissions on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo arrives to give a public statement at the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 16, 2024. A South Korean court ruled in favor of the government's contentious plan to drastically boost medical school admissions on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo arrives to give a public statement at the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 16, 2024. A South Korean court ruled in favor of the government's contentious plan to drastically boost medical school admissions on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

FILE - Doctors stage a rally against the government's medical policy in Seoul, South Korea, on March 3, 2024. A South Korean court ruled in favor of the government's plan to drastically boost medical school admissions on Thursday, May 16, 2024, media reports said. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

FILE - Doctors stage a rally against the government's medical policy in Seoul, South Korea, on March 3, 2024. A South Korean court ruled in favor of the government's plan to drastically boost medical school admissions on Thursday, May 16, 2024, media reports said. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A tightly contested race in Virginia between one of America's most conservative congressmen and a challenger endorsed by former President Donald Trump is too close to call, The Associated Press said Monday.

The AP issued an advisory saying that the margin separating U.S. Rep. Bob Good and state Sen. John McGuire is likely to remain within a margin of a single percentage point. That means the race is eligible for a recount under state law.

Good, who currently trails by more than 300 votes out of nearly 63,000 cast, has said he will seek a recount if the state electoral board certifies McGuire as the winner.

McGuire’s lead has actually grown slightly since early Wednesday morning.

Good on Monday also told former Trump adviser and right-wing podcaster Steve Bannon that he will be pursuing a legal challenge to block the certification of the count in the city of Lynchburg, the largest city in the 5th Congressional District and a Good stronghold.

“Lynchburg is the big key. That can’t be certified. There’s no confidence in Lynchburg’s results,” Good said.

Good and others have claimed that the city botched the vote count by accepting ballots from a drop box after election night.

In a statement Monday, the city registrar acknowledged a procedural error but said fewer than 10 ballots, if any, were affected.

The statement from the registrar’s office says the drop box, located inside the registrar’s office, was emptied out just before 1 p.m. on Election Day. But the box was not emptied again until Friday, June 21. Seven ballots were inside.

The registrar’s statement says staffers in the registrar’s office saw multiple ballots dropped off legally in the afternoon on Election Day but did not see any ballots placed in the box after that.

Those seven ballots have since been mixed in with another batch of ballots, and the registrar has said counting has been placed on hold while they consult with the Virginia Department of Elections on what to do next.

The department of elections said in an email Monday that it’s monitoring the situation in Lynchburg. The state elections board is currently scheduled to meet July 2 to certify the results.

Only after the results are certified can Good request a recount.

McGuire, who claimed victory on election night, issued a statement Monday thanking Good for his service and suggesting that a recount or a legal challenge would be pointless and divisive.

“While I understand the desire to continue the fight, the outcome of this election will not change,” he said.

Both Good and McGuire are among Republicans who have raised concerns about election integrity in the wake of Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in his 2020 reelection defeat. Good was among more than 100 GOP House members who voted in January 2021 to object to the Electoral College count from states that Trump disputed.

In an election eve telephone rally with Trump last week, McGuire urged supporters to deliver him a margin of victory “too big to rig.”

If Good loses, he would be the first House incumbent to lose a primary challenge this year, with the exception of one race in which two incumbents faced off due to redistricting.

FILE - Rep. Bob Good, left, a candidate in the Republican primary for the state's 5th Congressional District, greets family members at a watch party in Lynchburg, Va.,, June 18, 2024. On Monday, June 24, 2024, The Associated Press said the race between Good and Sen. John McGuire was still too close to call. (AP Photo/P. Kevin Morley, File)

FILE - Rep. Bob Good, left, a candidate in the Republican primary for the state's 5th Congressional District, greets family members at a watch party in Lynchburg, Va.,, June 18, 2024. On Monday, June 24, 2024, The Associated Press said the race between Good and Sen. John McGuire was still too close to call. (AP Photo/P. Kevin Morley, File)

FILE - Virginia state Sen. John McGuire, a candidate in the Republican primary in the state's 5th Congressional District, joins supporters, June 18, 2024, in Lynchburg, Va. On Monday, June 24, 2024, The Associated Press said the race between McGuire and Rep. Bob Good was still too close to call. (AP Photo/Skip Rowland, File)

FILE - Virginia state Sen. John McGuire, a candidate in the Republican primary in the state's 5th Congressional District, joins supporters, June 18, 2024, in Lynchburg, Va. On Monday, June 24, 2024, The Associated Press said the race between McGuire and Rep. Bob Good was still too close to call. (AP Photo/Skip Rowland, File)

Virginia state Sen. John McGuire, a candidate in the Republican primary in the state's 5th Congressional District, joins supporters Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Lynchburg, Va. (AP Photo/Skip Rowland)

Virginia state Sen. John McGuire, a candidate in the Republican primary in the state's 5th Congressional District, joins supporters Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Lynchburg, Va. (AP Photo/Skip Rowland)

Virginia state Sen. John McGuire, a candidate in the Republican primary for the state's 5th Congressional District, speaks to supporters in Lynchburg, Va., Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Skip Rowland)

Virginia state Sen. John McGuire, a candidate in the Republican primary for the state's 5th Congressional District, speaks to supporters in Lynchburg, Va., Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Skip Rowland)

Supporter Phil Hamilton places campaign signs for Rep. Bob Good, a candidate in the Republican primary for the Virginia's 5th Congressional District, along Timberlake Road in Lynchburg, Va., Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/P. Kevin Morley)

Supporter Phil Hamilton places campaign signs for Rep. Bob Good, a candidate in the Republican primary for the Virginia's 5th Congressional District, along Timberlake Road in Lynchburg, Va., Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/P. Kevin Morley)

Rep. Bob Good, left, a candidate in the Republican primary for the state's 5th Congressional District, greets family members at a watch party in Lynchburg, Va., Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/P. Kevin Morley)

Rep. Bob Good, left, a candidate in the Republican primary for the state's 5th Congressional District, greets family members at a watch party in Lynchburg, Va., Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/P. Kevin Morley)

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