NGOs in Action: The KAMA North Korea Doctor to Doctor Initiative

June 4, 2015 7:00 AM

Given all of the doubts—even cynicism—about engagement these days, it is worthwhile to highlight the handful of private efforts that are still plugging away. Thanks to a piece by Liz Park in KoreAm—celebrating its 25th anniversary—we were alerted to an initiative by the Korea American Medical Association (KAMA): the KAMA North Korea Doctor to Doctor Initiative. Launched in 2007, the program is based at Pyongyang Medical College Hospital, the Red Cross Hospital, and Kim Man Yu Hospital. On visits, Korean- American doctors, nurses, and students perform operations, providing opportunities for Korean-American and North Korean students as well (the Student to Student Initiative, with a conference of its own since 2013). The objective is capacity building through training and public health initiatives, including through participation in the annual Pyongyang International Medical Conference.

According to Park, exchanges with students were anything but stilted. In addition to panels sharing information on the health care systems as well as technical issues, Park claims there were plenty of opportunities for dialogue. “Any chance they had, the North Korean medical students peppered us with questions, which extended beyond topics of medicine to U.S. politics, religion and even entertainment.”

The KAMA story led us to another personal account at The Korea Times about two sisters who initially went with the KAMA program but then broke off on their own. Alice and Julia Song—twins—are California based ophthalmologists and have been taking their skills to North Korea for several years on a smaller and more focused scale. Their effort is entirely self-funded, showing the deep wells of altruism that are scattered among us. Kudos to the Song sisters and to the KAMA efforts. Both reflect the societal engagement bet; we should be doing more of it, not less.

NGOs in Action Posts

Witness to Transformation is always interested in showcasing NGOs doing humanitarian and human rights work on North Korea; if you know of organizations or work that would be of interest to our readers, feel free to inform us. These posts are for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement.

The American Friends Service Committee

Wheat Mission Ministries

Global Resource Services

Community of Sant'Egidio

Welthungerhilfe (Agro Action)

National Endowment for Democracy: North Korea Funding

European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea

First Steps

Rights in Exile Program

European NGOs

Welthungerhilfe II: The Expulsion of Regina Feindt

Engage Korea