Justice Update – Prison Life in North Korea

Hae Ju Kang at The Hague Humanity Hub with her Asymmetrical Haircuts water bottle

North Korea means nukes and famine and extraordinary political repression for most of us. But basic human rights are being systematically violated in places like the North Korean penal system, according to Korea Future, a South Korean NGO. They talked to 259 survivors, witnesses – and perpetrators – and have put a comprehensive account of the violations and penal facilities documented in the North Korean Prison Database they created. The main breaches in international law, they say, are Denial of Health, Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Arbitrary Deprivation of Liberty; Forced Labour; and Rape and Other Forms of Sexual Violence. 

Korea Future’s co-director Hae Ju Kang and investigator Shirley Lee tell us about their work and goals. Collecting and preserving evidence, they explain, is not only a way to hold perpetrators accountable but also to show survivors that these crimes will not be forgotten.

In 2014, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry was the first to document crimes against humanity in North Korean prisons. These new findings support claims that violence against detainees is committed to enforce a state policy. 

As Haircut fans, they also suggested two books that resonate with the situation in North Korea:

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner about the author’s grieving for her mother, originally from Korea, and Martin Pistorius’ Ghost Boy, which speaks of the human need to be heard.