Who we are
The North Korean Prison Database is a project of Korea Future, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation investigating human rights violations in North Korea in support of accountability and justice actors.
Korea Future is a women-led organisation composed of a diverse team of professionals with investigative, linguistic, and country expertise. Our offices are located in Seoul, The Hague, and London. We interview survivors, perpetrators, and witnesses. We gather documents and digital evidence generated by state actors in North Korea. We submit information to justice mechanisms. And we coordinate with governments, multilateral institutions, legal experts, survivor and diaspora groups, and global civil society to build a consensus that accountability in North Korea is not only possible, but inevitable.
What is the North Korean Prison Database?
This database offers users access to a comprehensive and growing archive of violations of international law that have transpired in the North Korean penal system. This includes evidence pertaining to perpetrators and their links to state organisations, penal facilities, and the violations for which they are responsible. To evidence of detainees, including their current status, the violations they experienced, and the facilities in which they were detained. And, uniquely, the database breaks down the specific legal elements of every documented violation of international law, including specific constituting acts.
With this database, Korea Future aims to provide comprehensive support to legal practitioners, policymakers, civil society organisations, researchers, journalists, and others working toward justice and accountability. Our full archive of crime-base evidence is available to international and national justice actors on request.
What is the need for the database?
In 2014, the United Nations established that industrial-grade violations of international law were taking place in North Korea. Their gravity, scale and nature were found to “not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”
In 2022, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea stated that during the six years of carrying out his mandate, he had witnessed a further deterioration of the human rights situation.
Korea Future's response has been to interview over 500 victims and identify over 1,000 perpetrators and state entities linked to thousands of documented human rights violations. We have taken the first steps in holding persons responsible to account and in coordinating states, multilateral institutions, and other key actors in support of accountability and justice opportunities.
Our methods of investigation have been developed with and comprehensively reviewed by legal experts with international prosecutorial and analytical experience. We begin our investigations by interviewing displaced survivors, perpetrators, and witnesses who either experienced, are responsible for, or observed violations of international human rights law at penal facilities. With consent, we ask open-ended interview questions concerning their experiences of detention. During the course of interviews, locations of violations are often geolocated and our investigators work with interviewees to map the internal architectures of penal facilities.
Our evidence is thoroughly analysed against an international human rights law framework to corroborate and verify cases and to establish whether violations of international human rights law took place. 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.