Mystery as North Korean 'ghost ship' washes up in Japan with eight skeletons on board
- North Korea 'ghost ships' have been washing up in Japan since start of November
- Two boats contained some living crew members, while one was full of bodies
- The most recent vessel only had eight skeletons on board, Japanese media says
- It is unclear why so many vessels have started washing ashore now
In the most recent case a wooden vessel containing eight skeletons and bearing markings in the Korean alphabet came ashore in northern Japan on Monday.
Another vessel carrying eight fishermen landed in the same prefecture on Friday last week, while two more ships were found adrift on November 19 and 13 in the ocean further north.
The skeletal remains of eight men were discovered on this wooden fishing boat which washed up in Japan on Monday and is believed to have come from North Korea
It is just the latest North Korean boat to have ended up in Japanese waters this month, as mystery remains over why so many have found themselves adrift
Between November 15 and 17 another two capsized boats were found by the Japanese coast guard off the Noto Peninsula, in central Japan.
On that occasion seven bodies were recovered while three North Korean fisherman were saved, the Kyodo News Agency reports.
The three survivors were returned to another North Korea vessel after expressing a wish to go home, the agency reported, meaning they were not trying to defect.
The eight men rescued last week have also requested to go home, authorities said.?
This boat was discovered on Monday, another washed ashore on Friday, while four were discovered the previous week - including two which capsized
Eight North Korea squid fishermen were discovered on this vessel last week and said they had been adrift for a month after losing engine power
Questioned by Japanese officials they revealed they had left port in North Korea a month ago in order to fish squid, before losing engine power.
Cast adrift, they had somehow managed to survive stormy seas on a dilapidated wooden vessel before landing in?Akita Prefecture, where they were picked up.
Satoru Miyamoto, an expert on North Korea, told CNN that the sudden increase in 'ghost ships' may be due to Kim Jong Un expanding his fisheries to provide more income for the armed forces.
'They are using old boats manned by the military, by people who have no knowledge about fishing. It will continue,' he said.
Three North Koreans were rescued while another seven drowned after two vessels were found capsized between November 15 and 17, Japanese media said
It comes amid international sanctions aimed at choking off some of North Korea's main sources of income following a series of missile tests and a nuclear blast.
The last time a large number of vessels washed ashore in Japan was in 2015, when around a dozen boats - many containing bodies - arrived.
Reports at the time claimed the bodies could belong to desperate fishermen driven into treacherous waters by food shortages, while other suggested a refugee exodus from the hermit state, Newsweek reports.
Pyongyang has denied any of its fishermen were trying to flee, and said all deaths had come as the result of navigational errors.?
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