More doctors mean a healthier and more innovative nation

2024.02.23 10:58:02 | 2024.02.26 09:17:21

[Photo by Yonhap]이미지 확대

[Photo by Yonhap]



South Korean medical school students walk off their school grounds to join an industry-wide protest against President Yoon Suk Yeol‘s government plan to increase the number of physicians in the country by 2,000 from the current 3,058. The number of medical students joining the protest totaled 11,778 as of the latest count, which accounts for 63 percent of the entire student group.

Doctors rank among Korea’s best-paid jobs, with a physician aged 35 at a hospital said to earn 300 to 400 million won ($301,091) annually, according to Kim Yoon, a medical professor at the Seoul National University. Critics of the labor actions among trainee doctors and medical students say, “More doctors mean more competition and reduced income for them, which explains why they are protesting the government’s move to increase physician supply.”

National wealth and prosperity come from innovation and entrepreneurship. Economies that embrace creativity and innovation show greater capabilities to generate national prosperity, but this is not the case in Korea.

The bulk of Korean doctors‘ lucrative earnings stem from their medical licenses, with average annual salaries doubling from 200 million in 2019 to 400 million won due to a shortage of licensed medical professionals. In comparison, engineering graduates from top universities employed in high-paying tech firms earn up to 100 million won a year.

The overwhelming income disparity between doctors and non-doctors fuels the craze for medical studies that is already prevalent among Korean parents. The craze is so severe that even cram schools for elementary school students offer classes at high school levels to prepare them for medical college entrance exams.

An increase in medical school intake is necessary to protect the country from a plague that might threaten innovation and success across key sectors. While mitigating the financial incentives that come with medical professions, Korea should encourage its top talent to seek innovative pursuits, thereby fostering a healthcare workforce that is committed to patient care and advancing medical science.

By Editorial Team

[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]