Photo: KMSA's poster says “Public Health is a Sham; Health Before Politics”. Credit: Facebook page of the Korean Medical Student Association
In May 2020, the Ministry of Health and Welfare 보건복지부 held a “Thanks to You Challenge” 덕분에 챌린지 as an appreciation for medical professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic, urging people to show their gratitude by using the Korean sign language gesture of thumbs-up on top of a flattened hand. Last week, to protest the Ministry’s plan to increase the number of doctors by expanding the capacity in medical schools, the Korean Medical Student Association 대한 의과대학 의학전문대학원 학생협회 put out a poster that flipped the gesture upside down.
The effort backfired. Although the KMSA intended to direct its ire toward the Ministry, the poster came across as an insult to the public who were feeling appreciation for the medical professionals. Korean Association of the Deaf and Mute 한국농아인협회 protested strongly, noting that the hand signal, which does not exist in the KSL, can nonetheless mean “curses to you.” The KMSA apologized and withdrew the campaign.