AOMORI (TR) – The Aomori Coast Guard Office believes four corpses discovered on a boat in a harbor in the village of Sai on Thursday may belong to North Korean nationals, likely a continuation of a trend that began escalating last month, reports TBS News (Dec. 29).
On December 22, local police received a report from a fishing boat that the wooden vessel had been ensnared in a fishing net. On Thursday, the vessel, measuring 12 meters in length, was brought into Chogo Fishing Harbor by the coast guard.
Officials checking the inside of the craft found three bodies in the bow. The fourth body was at the stern. Most of the heavily decayed bodies were clothed in jackets and pants, the agency said.
Fish hooks for squid and fishing nets were also found on board. The stern of the vessel contained the number 98180 in hangul characters, which is the script of the Korean language.
Discoveries have intensified
On Wednesday, the Japan Coast Guard revealed that 99 suspected North Korean boats have washed ashore along the Sea of Japan coast in 2017, the largest number since figures began being kept in 2013, when the total was 80.
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 Tuesday, the number stood at 40 for December, according to the coast guard.
At total of 31 corpses have been found on board the vessels and in the vicinity of where they were discovered. Another 41 sailors have been taken into protective custody from the vessls. Both figures are records, the coast guard said.
The vessels are believed to be fishing boats launched from the Communist nation whose engines have become disabled. Water currents and winds send the drifting crafts to the northern coasts of Japan.