Of all the obstetricians and gynecologists who completed their residencies this year, just 10 out of a total of 90 or only 11 percent were men. A decade ago, 70 percent of Ob-Gyn specialists were men. But nowadays, they have become something of a rarity.
Cheil General Hospital in downtown Seoul is Korea's largest child-delivery facility, handling 6,557 childbirths last year. It is known as the premier training center for Ob-Gyn specialists in the nation. But all 18 residents in the women's health department there are women. Early this year, a male resident started working at the ward, becoming the first to do so in three years, but left soon afterwards.
This trend stems from a growing preference for female specialists in this field among Korean women and an increasing view that it does not have a bright future.
Moreover, of the 10 new male Ob-Gyn specialists this year, most will work as military doctors or at state-run health clinics for three years as an alternative to their compulsory military service. This means that only two or three male women's specialists will end up working at hospitals across the country.
And this imbalance is set to worsen in the future as older specialists retire. Among the 6,000 or so Ob-Gyn specialists in Korea, 45 percent are over 50. That is almost double the percentage of internal medicine doctors who are over 50. Yet the number of new Ob-Gyn specialists has been declining each year, falling below 100 last year.
In fact, Ob-Gyn specialists, who are responsible for the lives of mothers and infants, have become part of a minor field such as ophthalmology (119 new doctors last year) or dermatology (82 new doctors).
"Most Ob-Gyn specialists retire around the age of 55 due to the physical demands of the profession," said Dr. Shin Jung-ho, head of the Korea Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology. "At this rate, we may have trouble finding doctors who can handle childbirth and postpartum care 10 years from now."