The Japanese Coast Guard released a statement on Monday in which it revealed that it had found a skeleton-filled ghost ship carrying the remains of eight ill-fated seafarers washed ashore on Japan’s North Korean-facing coast.
The ship was discovered days after the body of a suspected North Korean man and parts of another wrecked wooden craft were discovered on a Japanese island. It turns out that the wreck was a result of desperate defectors trying a new route to freedom after despot Kim Jong Un has clamped down on those fleeing the Hermit Kingdom this year.
The 22-foot wooden boat was spotted by a Japanese on Friday floating in Miyazawa Beach in Oga, Akita Prefecture, along the Sea of Japan, Japan Times reported.
The vessel was later on searched by officials on Sunday and Monday and they found several of the remains were “skeletonized,” indicating a long period had elapsed before it washed ashore. The remains were so severely decomposed it was hard to decipher if they were men or women.
A 68-year-old woman initially spotted the boat, she told Kyodo News that she saw rescue workers carrying skeletal remains using stretchers.
"I was surprised to see the boat in such a bad condition," the woman told the Japanese news site.
Japanese officials have been puzzled by the discovery, since they’ve not found any clues that indicate the ship’s origin. However, Kyodo news revealed that the Coast Guard said the boat may have come from North Korea.
The waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula are known to be rich fishing grounds, where poachers from North Korea and China have been spotted. About 650 miles sit between the coast of North Korea and Japan across the Sea of Japan. Wreckage from North Korean boats regularly washes ashore in northern Japan during winter due to seasonal winds.
This is not the first time that skeletal remains of North Korean fishermen have been found. Back-in 2015, a wooden boat drifted ashore in another coastal town in Akita and skeletal remains of two men were found — one inside the vessel and another one nearby. Three North Korean boats with 10 bodies inside also washed up on the Noto Peninsula.
With the exclusion of Monday’s skeleton-filled ghost ship discover, at least nine bodies have drifted to the Japanese coast this year. North Koreans typically escape the brutal regime by traveling through China. An estimated 1,000 people flee Kim Jong Un’s volatile regime each year, and a total of about 30,000 North Koreans have made the treacherous escape since the end of the Korean War.
Reports from Telegraph indicate that North Korean defectors successfully escaping the regime fell by 12.7 percent.