J Korean Med Assoc.  2013 May;56(5):352-354.

The end of internship training in South Korea

  • 1Korean Institute of Medical Education and Evaluation, Seoul, Korea. dsahn@korea.ac.kr
  • 2Department of Plastic Surgery, Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.


The abolishment of the internship training program in Korea has become a hot issue in Korea. The internship has traditionally been a general competency build-up process to becoming a practicing doctor. However, despite its relatively long history, there is still no oversight or guidelines for the educational program itself. It is operated individually department-by-department on a rotation basis with no central supervision or clear goals and objectives. Very often, interns are abused as sources of simple cheap labor, performing not only medical duties but also menial administrative tasks as required by each department, without proper educational activity or training. This significant lack of system and structure is a chronic grievance among those who experience it, yet perhaps due to its short duration, is something that is endured and then forgotten. Medical students, however, have largely opposed the abolition, citing the loss of the opportunity for anthropologic exploration of various clinical departments and the chance to build networks to pursue specialty training in the fields of their choice. The key issue at hand is then whether the current problematic student clerkship training can be improved enough to replace the internship program. To do so would require overcoming the fragmented nature of the clinical education culture, which is still quite clannish in nature and based on family values. Whether these cultural barriers can be broken to develop a clerkship training curriculum sufficient to achieve general competency before specialty training is the determining factor for the fate of the internship program.


Internship; Abolition; Clerkship; Culture; Reform
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