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 was founded in London in 2017. We expanded from a long-running civil society and diaspora collective that had provided assistance to North Korean refugees who were exiled in Europe and had experienced human rights violations in their homeland. Today, we are a diverse team with over 30 years of combined experience working on North Korea. Our offices are located in Seoul, London, and The Hague.
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?
The United Nations has established that violations of international law are taking place on a systematic and industrial scale in North Korea. Thousands have fled, tens-of-thousands are missing, and millions are known to have died. There is an urgent and critical need to investigate and preserve evidence of violations of international law so that justice actors can begin to hold those responsible to account.
Until now, little evidence had been gathered according to the standard of international law for the explicit purpose of holding accountable those implicated in violations of the human rights of individuals detained in North Korean penal facilities. Rarer still has been evidence that identifies individual North Korean perpetrators and links them directly to cases where international law has been violated.
Korea Future is the only international organisation filling the evidentiary gap necessary for justice and accountability in North Korea. Using best practices throughout our investigations to ensure our evidence is admissible in national and international justice settings, we document, analyse, and preserve evidence to ensure our work can be used in the widest range of justice settings. We do not replicate existing work. Instead, we collaborate with diaspora organisations, national and international legal and civil society partners, and directly with governments to increase the impact of our work.
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.