NIIGATA (TR) – Authorities have found more bodies believed to belong to North Korean nationals washed ashore in two locations along the Sea of Japan in recent days. The incidents are the most recent discoveries in what has become an intensifying trend.
At 7:20 a.m. on Monday, a fisherman found a male corpse floating in Yonagogyo Harbor in Tsuruoka City, according to the Sakata Coast Guard. Later that morning, two more bodies were found washed ashore on the coast of the town of Atsumi.
Both bodies, which were wrapped life jackets, had turned skeletal. Attached to the clothing of one of the bodies was a pin that is believed to be North Korean, according to the Tsuruoka Police Station.
On Saturday, an wooden vessel was found washed ashore nearby. In addition to determining the causes of death of the persons, police are investigating if the corpses came from the vessel.
Another discovery took place over the weekend. At 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, a woman reported finding an overturned wooden boat on the shore of Sado City, Niigata. Police arriving at the scene searched the area and found two male corpses nearby.
Water currents and winds regularly direct disabled boats from North Korea toward the northern coasts of Japan. However, the discovery of bodies on shorelines has been increasing. In November, authorities reported finding 28 bodies aboard vessels or on shores, a significant increase over the four corpses found in the same month last year, according to NHK (Dec. 4).
While the number of bodies found is on the rise, the number of shipwrecks is not. In 2013, there were 80 boats from North Korea found washed ashore in Japan. Between 2014 and 2016, the figure was between 45 and 66. Through December 4 of this year, the number stood at 64.
The government is monitoring the situation. “The coast guard and police have to cooperate to step up sea patrols around Japan,” said Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, on November 28 in speaking about the discovery of eight corpses aboard a vessel in Oga City, Akita Prefecture the day before, according to the Associate Press. “The government intends to improve this to ensure we can guard against suspicious boats or people arriving in Japan.”
North Koreans in custody
In addition to the 18 bodies found in November, authorities also took 42 persons believed to be North Korean into custody.
On November 29, a wooden fishing boat containing 10 men believed to be North Korean was found drifting near the uninhabited islet of Oshimakojima in Hokkaido Prefecture. They men are now under investigation for stealing electronic appliances and other items from a hut on the islet while taking refuge.
Six days before, eight men were found on a 20-meter-long boat off the coast of Yurihonjo City, Akita. None of the eight persons, all of whom appeared to speak Korean, had suffered serious injuries. “We left North Korea about a month ago to go fishing, but the ship broke down,” one of them was quoted. “We want to go home.”