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Double-sidedness of Korea’s Medical System
Written by Ashley Minju Song | Published. 2020.08.10 20:47 | Count : 625

Recently, I read an online article that discussed the government’s decision to accept 400 more students for medical schools beginning the next school year. According to the government, this decision was made to increase the number of available medical personnel especially in rural areas of Korea. Having faced the COVID-19 pandemic, the government realized just how serious of an issue Korea’s lack of medical personnel is. To help address this problem over the next 10 years, the government plans to accept 4,000 more medical students by the end of 2031. After reading the article, I wanted to know more about what other issues there currently are in our medical system, specifically in relation to the policies and regulations of the government. 

While researching this, the “Moonlight Hospital" (“달빛어린이병원") policy grabbed my attention. So, I decided to interview the spokesman of the “Moonlight Hospital" Association and head doctor of Yonsei Gomdori Pediatric Hospital, Jong Geun Song, to learn more about this policy and ask questions about the issues hospitals face. 

[Photo of Jong Geun Song.
Photo Credit: Yonsei Gomdori Pediatric Hospital]

As I didn’t have a clear understanding of what the Moonlight Hospital policy is, I asked Dr. Song to explain it to me. He said that the policy is a government policy that was first introduced in September 2014. It was introduced especially to help young children who are sick gain access to outpatient clinics, rather than the emergency room, even when hospitals are closed, such as late in the evening or on weekends.Now that I better understood the policy, I wanted to hear more about the issues that hospitals faced after deciding to become Moonlight Hospitals. Dr. Song explained some of these difficulties based on his own personal experiences. He explicitly mentioned the challenges he faced in finding doctors and nurses willing to work on the weekends and late at night. Although the hospitals that choose to be Moonlight Hospitals are known to receive a subsidy from the government to maintain the system, the amount is far less than what is needed. As the numbers of doctors and nurses who are willing to work at night and on weekends are decreasing every year, Dr. Song said that it is getting harder to maintain the system. 

[Photo of Yonsei Gomdori Pediatric Hospital/Photo Credit: Ashley Minju Song]

I also asked Dr.Song for his opinion on the new government proposal, which I mentioned earlier, to increase the number of undergraduate medical students starting from the next school year. He said that though he understands the purpose and where the idea came from, there are a few parts of the proposal, about the government support, that he questions. He believes that it is important to resolve the lack of medical personnel in areas where medical support is needed, yet the government should also focus on existing policies. Although it was the government that promoted private hospitals to Moonlight Hospitals back in 2014, hospitals such as Yonsei Gomdori Pediatric Hospital are no longer getting the support they need. However, rather than taking responsible actions to address this shortcoming, the government is making new policies emphasizing the medical workforce, while neglecting existing policies and private hospitals. Here, Dr. Song sees the contradiction in what the government is promoting. Thus, he does understand the purpose and meaning behind the new policy but believes that it is equally important to look at existing policies as well.

Through this interview, I gained a chance to learn more about the issues of our medical system and the policies that are currently in place for the public good. It was an eye-opening experience to hear the first-hand experiences of a doctor working in the field today. Although Dr.Song believes the new policy announced by the government may be necessary for the future, he maintains that more attention needs to be paid to existing policies that are currently applied in numerous hospitals. For a better future, I too believe that the government should prioritize existing policies before creating new ones.



Ashley Minju Song
Senior (Grade 12)
Chadwick International

Ashley Minju Song  student_reporter@dherald.com

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