Health and Medical Care in North Korea: First-hand Perspectives

Wednesday, February 20, 2019
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Philippines Conference Room
Encina Hall, Third Floor, Central, C330
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305
  • Kee B. Park,
  • David S. Hong,
  • Andray Abrahamian

This panel discussion, moderated by Andray Abrahamian (Stanford APARC), will discuss health and medical care in North Korea. Physicians Kee Park (Harvard Medical School) and David S. Hong (Stanford Lucile Packard Children's Hospital) will discuss their experiences with neurosurgery in Pyongyang; and all three panelists will share perspectives on how average DPRK residents interact with their country’s health system—including distinctive aspects of North Korean public health policy and how geopolitical factors influence human security and humanitarian aid on the Korean peninsula.


Dr. Kee B. Park is a member of the faculty at the Program in Global Surgery and Social Change (PGSSC) at the Harvard Medical School. 

He is also the Director of the North Korea Program at the Korean American Medical Association where he leads the collaboration between US and DPRK physicians. Since 2007, he has made 18 visits to DPRK, most recently in May 2018.

His academic interests include studying the unique features of the North Korean public health system, how geopolitical factors influence human security and humanitarian aid on the Korean peninsula, and the complex relationships between international security, health, and human rights.

Dr. Park is a consultant for the World Health Organization and serves on the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Surgical Care and Anesthesia. In this capacity, he advocates for and assists in the development of national surgical plans by the Member States.

He is a diplomate of the American Board of Neurological Surgery, a member of the Advisory Committee for the Foundation of the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies, member of the National Committee on North Korea, and member of Council of Korean Americans.

Kee B. Park, MD obtained his medical degree from the Rutgers University in New Jersey and trained in neurosurgery at the Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



Dr. David S. Hong specializes in the treatment of pediatric patients with neurosurgical conditions, with additional specialty training in the treatment of pediatric spinal disorders, including scoliosis. His additional clinical interests include brain tumors, epilepsy surgery, idiopathic scoliosis, Chiari malformation, vascular conditions, and concussion.  He works to develop clinical pediatric neurosurgical programs in the Bay Area.

He is an active part of the Korean American Medical Association’s Global Health Program, and as the first pediatric neurosurgeon in North Korea has been developing the recently established pediatric neurosurgical program in the DPRK since 2015.

He is a member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the National Council on North Korea, and the Council of Korean Americans.  He completed his residency in his home state of Michigan at the Detroit Medical Center, and completed fellowship training at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, before becoming a part of Stanford Children's Health.


Andray Abrahamian is the 2018-2019 Koret Fellow at Stanford University. He is also an Honorary Fellow at Macquarie University, Sydney and an Adjunct Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute. He is an advisor to Choson Exchange, a non-profit that trains North Koreans in economic policy and entrepreneurship. He was previously Executive Director and Research Direction for Choson Exchange. That work, along with supporting sporting exchanges and a TB project, has taken him to the DPRK nearly 30 times. He has also lived in Myanmar, where he taught at Yangon University and consulted for a risk management company. He has conducted research comparing the two countries, resulting in the publication of "North Korea and Myanmar: Divergent Paths" (McFarland, 2018). Andray has published extensively and offers expert commentary on Korea and Myanmar, including for US News, Reuters, the New York Times, Washington Post, Lowy Interpreter and 38 North. 

He has a PhD in International Relations from the University of Ulsan, South Korea and an M.A. from the University of Sussex where he studied media discourse on North Korea and the U.S.-ROK alliance, respectively. Andray speaks Korean, sometimes with a Pyongyang accent.