TOKYO – At least four ships have washed up on Japan’s west coast this month, some with bodies on board, and while authorities haven’t confirmed their origin, signs suggest they’re from North Korea.
Eight skeletons were found in the hull of one wooden boat that washed ashore on Miyazawa beach in the northwest of Japan’s main island Honshu, the Akita Coast Guard said Monday.
The unidentified boat was spotted drifting off shore on Friday but the grim discovery was only made when it reached land.
While officials would not confirm the boat was from North Korea, it matches a spate of vessels and debris that have ended up on Japan’s west coast.
Satoru Miyamoto, a professor at Seigakuin University and an expert on North Korea, said the number of ships washing ashore on Japan’s coast has risen since 2013.
“It’s after Kim Jong Un decided to expand the fisheries industry as a way of increasing revenue for the military. They are using old boats manned by the military, by people who have no knowledge about fishing,” Miyamoto said. “It will continue.”
The spate of North Korean boats washing up in Japan is reminiscent of 2015, when more than 12 so-called ghost ships were discovered with dead bodies on board.
At the time, experts said the bodies on the boats could be those of refugees or fishermen, driven into more dangerous waters by desperation from North Korea’s well-documented food shortages.