Pyongyang 2009. Image courtesy of Kee Park, MD

Name: Kee Park, MD

Location: Harvard Medical School. Boston, MA.

Specialty: Neurosurgeon. Lecturer on Global Health and Social Medicine. North Korean Expert.

Have you ever wondered what its like being a doctor one of the most isolated and restricted countries on earth? We have. It’s a question Keith and I have explored and discussed many times over the years since starting this podcast. But how do you find and connect with someone in country where virtually all citizens are prohibited from contact with the outside world, and heavily surveilled when doing so?

Today’s episode is one we were beginning to think we could never do. Finding the right person to interview involved overcoming barriers beyond our control. We even considered the possibility of interviewing a physician defector. Even if we could find such a person, how would we verify their identity, and cross check their stories? How would we really know who we were talking with? So, we tabled the idea, always hoping that one day we could find the right person.

Today we have that person, and it turns out we were looking in the wrong places. We should have been looking closer to home.  Dr. Kee Park is a faculty neurosurgeon at Harvard Medical School, Director of the North Korea Program at the Korean American Medical Association, and member of the National Committee on North Korea and the Council of Korean Americans. He’s a world-renowned researcher and expert on global health and humanitarian medical aid.

Since 2007, Kee has visited North Korea over 20 times, working alongside North Korean doctors, attending North Korean medical conferences, and even operating on patients in North Korean hospitals. There are few outsiders (especially Americans) that we are aware of with greater firsthand experience and trusted access in North Korea. As we’ll soon see, that trusted access has been hard earned over many years. It’s what enables Kee to continue his mission, helping patients in North Korea and around the world. As all of you will understand, we have no desire to do anything that could jeopardize Kee’s ability to continue his work or endanger his personal safety.  While this is was an eye-opening conversation, it did not include any political discussions or questions regarding the current North Korean regime.

This was an amazing episode, and journey into a world most of us know very little about. With that said, let’s get started.  

Links and Resources:

North Korea Sanctions | U.S. Department of the Treasury

“A history of US nuclear weapons in South Korea.” Full article: A history of US nuclear weapons in South Korea (

Kee B Park MD MPH ’19 — Harvard Alumni in Healthcare (

Kee B Park | Council Korean Americans (CKA) (

“First Do No Harm.” The Impact of Sanctions on Public Health in North Korea | The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (

Kee B. Park | Global Health and Social Medicine (

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