Most lawmakers, who attend events organized by occupational associations to deliver a congratulatory address, tell the organizers what they want to hear. They usually vow to help solve the host groups’ pending issues.
Roughly the same thing happened at the general assembly of the Korean Licensed Practical Nurses Association (KLPNA), held at Glad Hotel Yeouido in Seoul, last Thursday. Legislators from both governing and opposition parties said they would support the association’s becoming a statutory body. KLPNA is going all out to be a legal group this year.
Oh Je-se, a lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party was somewhat different, however.
Once taking the podium, Rep. Oh made “unexpected” remarks. After confirming the attendance of the heads of two bickering groups – Choi Dae-zip of the Korean Medical Association and Choi Hyuck-yong of the Association of Korean Medicine – Oh began his speech by saying, “I hope that there will be no longer conflicts between different occupational groups.”
Oh pointed out that there are conflicts between Western doctors and oriental medical doctors and between nurses and nurse aides. He then said, “I hope there are no conflicts among people who are working with expertise and pride in their jobs.” Each group will benefit more from recognizing another’s job and function, the ruling party legislator added.
“My heart aches whenever I see fights between doctors and oriental doctors because excellent students become doctors and oriental doctors after graduating from medical colleges and oriental medicine colleges,” Oh said. “Do doctors and oriental doctors, both of whom get the respect of the general public, need to conflict with each other for small interests? Will people applause if doctors and oriental doctors fight against each other?"
He also asked nurses and nurse aides, “What are you fighting for?”
Oh emphasized now is the time for moving toward the integration of the Republic of Korea. He left the podium ending his address, saying, “We should put our hands together for a greater cause. Now is the time for a change.”
There was less applause toward Oh compared those to other speakers. However, the emcee said, “It was a painful address for us.”
Oh, a four-term lawmaker, who also worked as the chairman of the National Assembly Health and Welfare Committee, is still serving at the same committee. That means he has long observed conflicts among different occupational groups in the healthcare area. Even to the eyes of such an experienced legislator, the confrontation between doctors and oriental doctors and between nurses and practical nurses seemed to be caused by their professional interests, not by concerns about public health.
Watching the continuous confrontation between different occupational groups, many others think it as “opposition for opposition’s sake.” Not a few of those representing their occupational groups might also have experienced they could not hit even easy targets once their struggles were framed as a “turf war.”
At a time when almost all occupational groups are talking about “struggle,” I hope these groups will rack their brain to come up with methods “that can win the public’s applause,” as Rep. Oh put it.
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