03/03/2024, 13.19
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Doctors' strike: for Korean bishops, ‘the good of patients must come first'

Bishop Ri Iong-hoon, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, issued an appeal in the wake of labour dispute that has paralysed South Korean hospitals for the past two weeks. For the prelate, “the sanctity of life takes precedence over everything else.” Both sides “must find a compromise” so that patients are not held “hostage to unavoidable conflicts.”

Seoul (AsiaNews) – For the past two weeks, South Korea has been deeply divided by a tough confrontation between doctors and the government.

Thousands of doctors have walked out after the authorities decided to boost the number of enrolments in medical schools.

This morning, doctors took to the streets in large numbers in Seoul, while Prime Minister Han Duck-so threatened to suspend the licences of those who continue the protest that is paralysing hospitals.

The Korean Catholic Church recently spoke out on the matter in a statement signed by Bishop Matthias Ri Iong-hoon of Suwon.

The prelate, who chairs the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (CBCK), expressed concern over the escalation on both sides, which puts the health of the most vulnerable at risk.

“Since society is made up of different components, different arguments and voices can exist; this diversity sometimes leads to conflict, which is not something to be avoided, but to be resolved through steadfast patience and dialogue,” reads the bishop’s statement.

For this reason, a solution must be found, by wisely “bringing together reasonable opinions from different areas of life to overcome the confusion and difficulties that currently beset our society."

“The ongoing medical crisis is causing enormous pain and loss not only to the government and medical staff, but also to hospital patients, those who are desperately waiting for surgery, their families.”

Not only patients in need of urgent operations are affected, but so are those who “are not receiving proper treatment and face life-threatening conditions.”

“Our society follows a series of values,” says the bishop of Suwon, “but the sanctity of life takes precedence over everything else. Both the government and the medical profession exist to protect people and keep their lives safe.”

“We must never endanger the lives of our patients or hold them hostage to unavoidable conflicts. The government and the medical community must find a compromise via open dialogue that considers the health of people and patients.”

In this regard, the CBCK president quotes from the Bible: “With all vigilance guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

Lastly, “We ask for the grace of Almighty God, that the government and the medical community may be able to overcome today's impasse by focusing on fulfilling the common purpose of protecting and caring for people’s health and life, meeting everyone’s expectations and wishes, and, in harmony, return to wholly fulfil their mission and responsibilities.”

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