TOKYO, Japan’s Coast Guard discovered a total of 16 boats of North Korean origin carrying 27 bodies since October, but the cause of death on board remains unknown.
The boats began appearing near Japan’s coast on Oct. 27, when a boat with Korean-language inscription turned up near Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan, Jiji Press reported. The Coast Guard stated the articles on board appeared to be North Korean.
Analysts in Japan had said the ships could have suffered when the boats veered off course in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea in the two Koreas. The people on board were ill prepared to cope with the crisis, South Korean outlet Newsis reported.
North Korean fishing boats continue to surface near Hokkaido, Akita and Niigata Prefectures, as well as in Ishikawa, Fukui and Hyogo Prefectures.
The boat that was discovered near Ishikawa Prefecture had Korean-language inscriptions that read, “Korean People’s Army” and “Security Department.” A torn North Korean flag was found among the bodies on the boat, along with equipment for squid fishing.
The boats were all similar in size, measuring 12 meters in length and 3 meters wide across the hull. Japan’s Coast Guard said the vessels were not suitable for fishing in the high seas, possibly given their size.
Satoru Miyamoto, a professor of North Korean politics at Seigakuin University, said North Korea typically exported most of its fish to China, but is increasingly devoting more of its fisheries to domestic consumption to improve living standards.