Health minister says no change in principle against ‘illegal’ labor action by trainee doctors

Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong said Monday there is no change in the government's principle against "illegal" labor action by trainee doctors, warning that the government would begin legal steps to punish those who defy an order to return to work. Thousands of trainee doctors remained off their jobs at general hospitals for the 14th consecutive day Monday, protesting the plan to add 2,000 more medical school seats starting next year, from the current 3,058. "The government remains firm in its principle against illegal collective actions by trainee doctors," Cho said during a briefing, also expressing a regret over doctors' rally held the previous day. "Starting Monday, health authorities will start on-site investigations to determine whether trainee doctors have returned to work and take measures under the law and principles, without exceptions, if they haven't," he added. About 9,000 medical interns and residents, who play a vital role in assisting with surgeries and emergency services at major general h ospitals, have maintained their collective labor action, leading to mass cancellations and delays in surgeries and emergency medical treatment. The government gave protesting doctors until last Thursday to return to work, warning them that noncompliance could result in punitive action, including criminal punishment or revocation of their doctors' licenses. So far, the warning has done little to bring them back to work. Source: Yonhap News Agency