AKITA (TR) – The Japan Coast Guard on Thursday announced the discovery four corpses inside two suspected North Korean boats washed ashore in Akita City, reports NHK (Dec. 14).
At around 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, coast guard personnel inside an aircraft on patrol discovered the damaged wooden boats on the beach at the mouth of the Omono River in the town of Arayamachi.
Akita Prefectural Police and the Akita Coast Guard Office searched one of the vessels, beached about 700 meters north of the mouth of the river, and found three corpses. The fourth body was found in the other boat, located about 300 meters away.
According to police and the coast guard, who are now examining the interior of the vessels, the boats are believed to have originated in North Korea.
Record number of beached vessels
On Wednesday, the Japan Coast Guard revealed that a record 83 suspected North Korean boats have washed ashore along the Sea of Japan coast in 2017, the largest number since figures began being kept four years ago.
The discoveries have intensified in recent months. Between January and October, the number did not exceed five for any month. However, the figure jumped to 28 in November. Through Wednesday, the number stood at 24 for December.
The vessels are believed to be fishing boats launched from North Korea whose engines have become disabled. Water currents and winds send the drifting crafts to the northern coasts of Japan. Similar to the discoveries on Thursday, many of the vessels have been found to contain corpses.
Portrait of Kim Jong-il
Also on Wednesday, two corpses were found washed ashore in Katagami City, Akita. According to local police, one of the bodies had a pin featuring a portrait of Kim Jong-il, the leader of North Korea between 1994 until his death in 2011, affixed to his left breast.