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Korean Medical Association president faces backlash for racist comment on Somali doctors

Thursday May 9, 2024

Lim Hyun-taek, the leader of the Korean Medical Association (KMA). (Yonhap)

Mogadishu (HOL) - Lim Hyun-taek, president of the Korea Medical Association (KMA), has sparked a controversy with a Facebook post that critics are calling racist. Lim uploaded an image of the 2008 medical graduates from Somalia's Benadir University—marking Somalia's first medical graduates in over two decades—with a caption that read "Coming Soon." 

The post is part of a broader debate over the South Korean government's plan to allow foreign medical license holders to practice in Korea during severe healthcare crises.

The backlash was swift, with many internet users denouncing Lim's actions as discriminatory. They argued that mocking the medical graduates of a specific country could be seen as discriminatory. Comments across online platforms reflected a mix of outrage and support for the Somali doctors, with some suggesting that these doctors could be more competent and ethical than their Korean counterparts. "What's wrong with Somali doctors? That sounds like a racist remark. They are likely to be more capable and have better character than Lim," one user commented.

Another user emphasized the importance of increasing the number of qualified doctors regardless of race, suggesting that what truly matters is the doctors' attitudes and their skills in patient care.

The controversy touches on recent policy changes by the South Korean government. The Ministry of Health and Welfare had just announced an amendment to the Enforcement Rules of the Medical Service Act, which would allow foreign-trained doctors to practice in Korea. The move aims to address the healthcare system's strain during crises. 

In a subsequent post reacting to the government's announcement, Lim criticized the plan to import doctors during emergencies, mockingly questioning the whereabouts of the chartered planes promised by government officials in March. His comments were a reference to a statement by Park Min-soo, the Second Vice Minister of Health and Welfare, who had said, "If there are no doctors left on site, we will even arrange chartered flights to treat patients."

Lim's controversial post specifically highlighted the achievements of 20 Somali doctors, part of the first group trained in the country in 18 years, underlining the significant strides made in Somalia's medical education.


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