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S. Korea banks on religious leaders to reform healthcare

President Yoon met with 10 religious leaders, including Catholic Church, to seek support
Staff walk outside a hospital in Seoul on March 13. Thousands of trainee medics began a strike on Feb. 20 to protest government plans to sharply increase the number of doctors to combat shortages and serve South Korea's rapidly aging population

Staff walk outside a hospital in Seoul on March 13. Thousands of trainee medics began a strike on Feb. 20 to protest government plans to sharply increase the number of doctors to combat shortages and serve South Korea's rapidly aging population. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 14, 2024 04:59 AM GMT
Updated: March 14, 2024 05:40 AM GMT

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has urged religious leaders to support his administration in tackling civil issues and fulfilling reform tasks in the healthcare sector.

Meeting religious leaders at the Blue House, which formerly served as a presidential residence, Yoon thanked them for backing reforms in healthcare, Yonhap News Agency reported on March 12.

"The religious community's support for healthcare reform in the spirit of respect for life has been a great strength in pushing forward the policy," Yoon said.

Yoon expressed gratitude to religious groups who have supported the government's healthcare reform which aimed at hiking medical school admissions from next year to combat shortages and an aging society.

The meeting was attended by 10 religious leaders from the Catholic Church, Baptist Church, Jogye Buddhism, Tendai Buddhism, Won Buddhism, Confucianism, and Cheondoism, among others.

Kim Ryung-ha, president of the Council of Religious Affairs of Korea, said the religious groups would consider issuing a joint statement in response to the government's efforts in the healthcare field.

"Let's think about whether we need to meet with the medical association to convince them," Kim said.

In recent years, the Christian, Buddhist, Catholic, Won Buddhist, Confucian, and the Korean National Council of Religious Affairs have issued a total of 18 statements on collective action in healthcare, Yonhap reported.

Yoon told the religious leaders that he has been traveling to directly listen to people's voices related to their daily lives “which led to the current debate on people's livelihoods."

"I believe that national unity and social integration will be achieved by itself if we focus on people's livelihoods," Yoon said.

The government had outlined plans to abolish the Mobile Device Distribution Improvement Act, and modify regulations for big-box retailers’ closing days among other changes in January 2024, the Chosun Ilbo reported.

The announcement was made during a government-public debate forum focused on "reforming regulations related to people’s livelihoods."

This repeal of the law on mobile device distribution aims at promoting market competition and to lowering the cost of mobile phone purchases by removing subsidy disclosure requirements and eliminating limits on additional subsidies.

The government had said that it was looking to amend laws to provide flexibility for big-box retailers regarding their mandatory closing days, which are currently set as the second and fourth Sundays of each month.

The proposed change would allow these retailers to close on weekdays instead. This move is intended to benefit dual-income families and individuals living alone who predominantly shop on weekdays, the Chosun Ilbo reported.

Yoon also discussed the preservation of the country’s cultural heritage, Yonhap reported.

"We should preserve not only temples but also important modern cultural heritage such as cathedrals and churches," Yoon said.

Yoon asked culture minister Yoo In-chon, who was present at the meeting, to find ways to support religious and cultural properties, Yonhap reported.

He also assured the religious leaders that the government would actively support the various roles that the religious community plays in the country's mental health.

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