The dead bodies of four people have been discovered inside a crew-less boat floating off the north coast of Japan – the twelfth ‘ghost ship’ to be found in the region in the last two months.
The 12.5 metre-long wooden boat was discovered on Sunday roughly six miles from the Ushitaki fishing port in Sai Village, Aomori. According to an Aomori Coast Guard spokesman, the hull of the boat appeared to feature Korean ‘Hangul’ markings and its poor condition suggested it had been drifting unmanned for some time.
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This latest discovery means that in total 22 bodies have been recovered from these ’ghost ships’ in recent weeks with Japanese police telling Reuters that all of the bodies were ‘partially skeletised’, two were headless and one boat contained six skulls.
It is thought the boats originated in North Korea, after Korean lettering was found on the hull of one of the boats containing 10 decomposing bodies, found drifting off the coast of Wajima, west Japan. According to The Japan Times at least 80 ships drifted ashore in 2013, 65 in 2014 and 34 so far this year. It seems that the victims have most likely died of starvation, however their identities remain unclear.
Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University’s Japanese campus, told the South China Morning Post:
We know that the regime in North Korea is pushing its farmers and fishermen to produce greater amounts of food. To my mind, the most likely explanation is that these were simply fishermen who were trying to fulfil large quotas and simply ran out of fuel too far out at sea to get home.