UPDATE 1 – South Korean nurses strike after Yoon vetoes pay and working conditions

UPDATE 1 - South Korean nurses strike after Yoon vetoes pay and working conditions


(Update number of participants; adds quote, details)

By Soo-hyang Choi and Daewoung Kim

SEOUL, May 19 (Reuters) –

Tens of thousands of South Korean nurses went on strike Friday after President Yoon Suk Yeol vetoed a law to improve their wages and working conditions amid protests from doctors and nursing assistants who said the law would hurt their jobs.

The bill was passed by the opposition-led parliament last month, prompting protests from some medical workers who said the new law would open the door for nurses to provide treatment without a medical licence.

Nurses say the doctors’ claim is unfounded and the country needs more care centers to cope with its rapidly aging population.

In vetoing the bill, Yoon said the new law created excessive conflict among medical staff and that nursing practices outside of medical facilities would raise public concern about the health care system.

The Korean Nurses Association, which led the strike, strongly denounced Yoon, saying he had reneged on his presidential candidate pledge to improve nurses’ working conditions.

“We will make the politicians and the bureaucrats pay the price for the fact that the president vetoed the bill,” association president Kim Yeong-kyeong said, referring to next year’s general election, at a demonstration in the bustling Gwanghwamun district of Seoul.

The impact of the strike has been considered limited so far, as most protesters took advantage of holidays or reduced office hours, while major hospitals continued to operate as normal.

South Korean Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong chaired an emergency meeting on Friday and urged medical institutions to closely monitor the situation to prevent the strike from affecting patients. (Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi and Daewoung Kim; Additional reporting by Jimin Jung; Editing by Gerry Doyle)