For the past few weeks, boats containing dead bodies have been turning up on Japanese shores and all evidence is pointing towards the rouge state nation of North Korea.
Since November, at least 40 bodies from 15 boats have been washing up along Japan’s west coast, according to figures presented by the country’s authorities and Business Insider.
According to The Washington Post, Thursday saw the most recent discovery after authorities came across two skeletons near a boat just off the western city Oga.
Origins of these ghosts ships have yet to be confirmed but multiple factors have all evidence pointing towards the DPRK.
On 26th November a boat washed up on the island of Sado containing contents which appeared to be from North Korea, including a packet of cigarettes exclusively sold in the DPRK and jackets with Korean writing.
Two other bodies were recovered from another boat in Yamagata on Tuesday, they were wearing pins of Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of North Korea’s current Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, according to The Japanese Times and the Associated Press.
Most of the discoveries found and reported by the Japanese authorities are said to contain skulls and rotting corpses.
However, despite these strange and disturbing discoveries, North Korean vessels turning up on Japanese shores is not a new development.
In 2013, 80 ships turned up in Japanese waters and since then, the number of vessels turning up from the DRPK has remained in the mid-to-high double figures – last year alone saw 66 North Korean ships ‘wander’ into Japanese territory.
Slightly more worrying, this year has seen the trend rise according to The New York Times – 76 have shown up so far with 28 of them coming in the last month.
The question is why is it happening so much this year, particularly when diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea is contentious, to say the least?
Recent missile tests launched by Kim’s regime over Japan has world leaders on the international stage very concerned.
With the scores of dead bodies washing up and supposedly originating from the DPRK this only adds to the amount of tension and suspicion towards Kim Jong-un and his antagonistic government.
One suggestion has lead experts to believe there’s a major food crisis in North Korea.
Speaking to Business Insider to Professor Jeffrey Kingston, the director of Asian Studies at Temple University in Japan, said:
The ghost ships are a barometer for the state of living conditions in North Korea — grim and desperate.
They signal both desperation and the limits of ‘juche’.
‘Juche’ is an idealogical term coined by Kim Il-sung which is meant to warrant state policies irrespective of famine and economic difficulties within the country.
Earlier this year the country underwent a serious drought which had a damaging effect on their food production and will more than likely result in further food shortages.
The Washington Post published a recent article about a North Korean soldier who escaped via the Korean DMZ to neighbouring South Korea, after a medical examination he was said to have had a large number of parasites in his stomach.
Seo Yu Suk, a research manager at the North Korean Studies Institution in Seoul, told Reuters:
North Korea pushes so hard for its people to gather more fish so that they can make up their food shortages.
Professor Kingston added:
These rickety vessels are unsuitable for the rough seas of the Sea of Japan in autumn and one imagines that far more are capsising that we will never know about.
Other theories point to the DPRK’s economy doing so well that Kim’s regime is actually pushing for its citizens to increase fishing productivity.
Speaking to Business Insider, Satoru Miyamoto, a political science and economics professor at Japan’s Seigakuin University said:
They are fishermen [trying] to earn money. Now North Korean economics, which adopted free market partly, have grown and generated a wealthy class.
A wealthy class demands not caloric food, but healthy food. So seafood, which are healthy, is popular in North Korea.
It’s evidence not that the North Korean economy is deteriorating, but that the North Korean economy is growing… Hungry people demand, not seafood – which are low-calorie, but cereal and meat, which are high-calorie.
Professor Kingston says due to the notoriously secretive country’s recent missile and hydrogen bomb tests ‘public anxieties and anger towards North Korea has increased’ therefore leaving little room for sympathy or empathy for the boats turning up with dead bodies.