Another North Korean “ghost ship” washed up with corpses in Japan

Another North Korean
Numbers and letters on a boat washed ashore on December 28 with the remains of several people. The authorities suspect that it comes from North Korea, 900 kilometers away. Image: Sado Coast Guard Station / Handout via Reuters

Time and again, boats from North Korea are detained by the Coast Guard or washed up on Japanese shores, often with mortal remains on board. Observers suspect that North Korean fishermen venture too far into the open sea because of high fishing quotas.

A wooden boat with seven badly decayed corpses has been washed up on the coast of the Japanese island of Sado. Five of the dead are men. The identity of the remaining bodies could not be clarified due to the state of decay, a representative of the Japanese coast guard told AFP on Sunday. 

According to media reports, the authorities believe that the badly damaged boat is a North Korean fishing boat. The island of Sado in the Japanese Sea is around 900 kilometres from North Korea. Korean characters and numbers were carved on the broken hull, the Coast Guard spokesman said. The Japanese police and coast guard are investigating the case.

As the newspaper “Yomiuri Shimbun” reported, at least 156 allegedly North Korean fishing boats have been washed up on Japan’s coast or caught in Japanese waters this year. Boats with dead crew members on board are referred to in the local media as “ghost ships”.

According to experts, some North Korean fishermen go far out into the sea to meet the government requirement for larger catches. They often get into trouble with their old and poorly equipped boats and have little opportunity to call for help.

In October, about 60 crew members of a North Korean fishing boat were rescued in the Sea of Japan after the boat sank after colliding with a Japanese patrol vessel.