Who we are
The North Korean Prison Database is a project of Korea Future, a non-governmental organisation documenting human rights violations and international crimes committed in the penal system of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. We launched in 2017 and operate from offices in The Hague, Seoul, and London. Our team is composed of investigators, legal analysts, and expert consultants. Korea Future is supported by a range of states, grant-making foundations, and public donations.
What is the North Korean Prison Database?
Launched in March 2022, the North Korean Prison Database is a growing and comprehensive archive of international human rights law violations and atrocities that have transpired in the North Korean penal system. Large volumes of data are free to access. Requests for specific, unlisted information is considered on a case-by-case basis.
What is the need for the database?
The DPRK penal system is under the effective control of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). Subject to absolute WPK control, the penal system functions as a distinctly political apparatus. Its purpose is to isolate persons from society whose behaviour conflicts with upholding the singular authority of the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un. Detainees are re-educated through forced labour, ideological instruction, and punitive brutality with the purpose of compelling unquestioning obedience and loyalty to the Supreme Leader, both while the individuals are in detention and after they are released.
The penal system detains vast numbers of citizens who have no formal convictions, have experienced no due process, and have committed no crimes, alongside persons who have committed common crimes, including theft and assault. The effective coordination of the penal system is maintained by the WPK through its mechanisms of command, control, and ideological instruction over all state entities and agents. Ultimate responsibility rests with the WPK General Secretary, Kim Jong Un.
Our response has been to interview hundreds of victims and identify perpetrators and state entities linked to thousands of documented human rights violations for the express purpose of supporting accountability processes.
Our methods of investigation have been developed with and comprehensively reviewed by experts with international legal experience. In practice, our work focuses on five objectives, namely: 1) Interviewing direct victims, witnesses, and perpetrators of human rights violations that have transpired in the penal system; 2) Undertaking high-quality legal analysis of primary documentation, including victim transcripts and internal state documents; 3) Identifying individual perpetrators and structures responsible for documented human rights violations; 4) Preserving information for future use in prosecutions or other justice processes; 5) Contributing to accountability through the submission of information to states, multilateral institutions, and justice mechanisms.
To preserve and manage our evidence, we built our database with Uwazi, an open-source web-based database application developed by HURIDOCS with its code available on GitHub. This platform enables our investigators to cross-reference and link files on suspects, cases, victims, and penal facilities. Powerful search features let us observe both patterns in our evidence and the granular details within specific cases.