TOKYO – At least a dozen wooden boats containing badly decomposed bodies have washed up on Japan coast over the past two months.
Two of the 22 people have been found without heads, some were “partially skeletonized”, according to the coast guard. The corpses may have belonged to defectors from North Korea who were hunting for fish, as the investigation of the deathly mystery unfolds.
“There’s no doubt that these boats are North Korean”, as told to CNN by John Nilsson-Wright, head of the Asia program at the Chatham House policy institute.
Japanese government has not given details of these ships’ origin, but the evidence suggests that they came from North Korea, since a hand-written sign identified one boat as the 325 unit from the North Korean Army, according to a video released by Japan’s NHK Television. Besides, remaining cloth from the North Korean flag was found in one of the boats. The vessels also contained fishing equipment.
This theory could make sense because Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, has been encouraging people to fish as a way to earn foreign currency and provide a stable food source that does not depend on harvest and weather.
Kim Do-hoon, a professor of Fisheries Science at Bukyong National University in Busan, said that October through February is a prime season for squid, sandfish and king crab off the east coast of the Korean peninsula. Therefore, it would not be unusual that an increasingly large number of boats were at sea, with people on board forced to risk their lives under Kim Jong Un’s pressure to catch more fish.
It had been previously thought that the people found in the wooden ships might have been defectors, but experts affirm that North Korean defectors usually flee by land into China or via coastal waters to South Korea, which is less likely but can still occur.
Do-hoon pointed out that North Korean precarious boats have bad engine and fishermen take the risk with weak equipment for rough seas. He commented that they often starve to death as the boats drift. According to the coast guard, the ships had no GPS navigation systems. As a consequence, those aboard might have quickly got lost and exposed to northwesterly winds, since the waters are rougher at this time of the year.
The actual death causes, as well as the people’s identities, remain unknown due to the fact that the bodies were so badly decomposed for having ben at sea for such a long time. These are not the first ghostly boats found off Japan coast. In total, officials have found 34 mystery ships this year. The coast guard reported 65 last year and 80 more in 2013.