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尹 accepts staff opinion to “resolve legislative conflict as soon as possible”

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Defeat in the general election – pointed out as the reason for the decline in approval ratings
Full acceptance of national university presidents’ suggestions

President Yoon Seok-yeol is making remarks at a cabinet meeting held at the Presidential Office Building in Yongsan on the 16th. 2024.4.16 Provided by Presidential Office

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Regarding the government’s announcement on the 19th that it would suddenly accept the proposal of national university presidents to partially adjust the size of the increase in medical school quota, a senior official in the President’s Office said, “President Yoon Seok-yeol accepted the opinion of his advisers that ‘the conflict over legislation must be resolved as soon as possible.’ “It was accepted,” he emphasized.

In a phone call with the Dong-A Ilbo on this day, this official said, “President Yoon said in a public address on the 1st that he would not stick to the 2,000 number if the medical community brings a unification plan,” and added, “The staff said that we should take a flexible position on the scale of the 2,000 increase. “The opinions have already been accepted,” he said. However, the reason why the government, which had been contemplating whether to increase the number of troops, suddenly announced an adjustment plan on this day is interpreted to be because of the judgment that the failure to resolve the legislative conflict before the general election was the cause of the crushing defeat in the April 10 general election. In addition, as the situation worsened after the general election, with the president’s approval rating showing a downward trend, there was a prevailing sentiment within the President’s Office that a resolution to the legislative conflict should be secured, which appears to be the background for the proposed adjustment plan.

While Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Lee Joo-ho is known to have first proposed to the presidents of national universities the announcement of a reduction in the number of students being recruited, the President’s Office is said to have been aware of these discussions. However, the position of the President’s Office is that no specific reduction plan or guidelines have been set or ordered.

According to the President’s Office, the presidents of national universities proposed to the Ministry of Education the previous day (the 18th) to reduce the number of medical school seats increased by half depending on the situation in the 2025 college admissions, and began reviewing this immediately. Presidential Policy Director Sung Tae-yoon and other advisers judged this suggestion to be reasonable and reported it to President Yoon, who reportedly accepted it. An official from the President’s Office said, “We have found an exit strategy for the long-running legislative conflict by accepting the autonomous adjustment suggested by the presidents of national universities.”

The President’s Office maintains that President Yoon did not suddenly change his position this time. He said that the numbers could not be changed because the medical community had not submitted opinions based on rational evidence. An official from the Presidential Office complained, “Although rational dialogue was always open, it was restricted by saying, ‘President Yoon insists on 2,000 people.’” He also said, “The government could not change things that were reasonably calculated without any basis.” A high-ranking official in the Presidential Office also explained, “We asked the medical community to gather objective evidence and opinions and submit them, but they have not come forward so far.”

The President’s Office believes that it is unlikely that the number of medical schools will be cut in half even if each university adjusts. A senior official in the Presidential Office emphasized, “Even if universities self-regulate, the increase in medical schools will exceed 1,500 students,” and added, “In the case of private universities, there will be some schools that will increase the number of students at the original size.”

Previously, at the Cabinet meeting on February 6, President Yoon first announced his position on increasing the number of medical schools, emphasizing that “in order to protect the health and lives of the people, the expansion of the doctor workforce is a task of the times that cannot be delayed any longer.” Afterwards, on the 1st of this month, he again emphasized the legitimacy of the 2,000-person increase in a 50-minute public address, saying, “If (the medical community) comes up with a more valid and reasonable solution, we can discuss it as much as we want.”

Reporter Jeon Joo-young
Reporter Lee Sang-heon

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