The “medical school black hole” phenomenon is causing concern in Korea as it is resulting in a shortage of talent in other fields. This trend refers to the increasing number of science and engineering students being drawn to medical schools. The recent college entrance exam results have shown that this trend is intensifying, with more students dropping out of their acceptance to attend medical school.
This year, 29.5% (1,343) of successful applicants to top universities like Seoul National University, Yonsei University, and Korea University gave up their enrollment, up from 1,301 last year. Yonsei University and Korea University had the most dropouts, with 643 and 545 applicants respectively, while Seoul National University had only 155.
Science and engineering majors had the highest dropout rates, with 737 natural science majors and 564 humanities majors leaving their spots. Yonsei University had an alarming 47.5% of natural science majors dropping out. Even students studying semiconductor and computer-related majors have abandoned their programs entirely, likely due to the allure of medical school.
This trend has caused concern among companies who rely on talented science and engineering graduates for research and development positions. The worry is that the supply of high-level development personnel will be cut off if more students continue to opt for medical school.
To address this issue, the government should consider creating incentives for students to pursue careers in science and engineering. Providing more job opportunities in these fields, as well as increasing salaries and benefits for those who pursue these careers, could help attract more talent. Additionally, universities could collaborate with companies to create internship opportunities, giving students a chance to gain practical experience while still in school.
Expanding the number of medical schools and supporting essential medical fields could also help alleviate the issue. The national research institute has projected a shortage of 27,000 doctors by 2035, so increasing the medical supply may be an unavoidable option to meet the growing demand. However, it is important to support essential medical fields to prevent further polarization in the medical profession. Possible solutions include improving the medical fee system by paying a public policy fee for essential medical fields that are prone to deficits.
Overall, addressing the medical school black hole phenomenon will require a multifaceted approach that addresses the shortage of talent in science and engineering fields while also meeting the growing demand for medical professionals. By creating incentives for students to pursue careers in science and engineering and expanding medical education opportunities, we can work to create a more balanced and well-rounded workforce.