Mysterious North Korean Ghost Ships Full Of Skeletons Wash Up In Japan

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A wooden boat, which according to a police official carried eight men who said they were from North Korea and appear to be fishermen whose vessel ran into trouble, is seen near a breakwater in Yurihonjo, Akita Prefecture, Japan November 24, 2017. Kyodo/via REUTERS

Ships believed to have come from North Korea and filled with dead bodies and skeletons have been washing up on the west coast of Japan, as desperate fishermen are forced further and further out to sea in search of a catch.

Japanese authorities said Monday they uncovered the skeletons of eight individuals from the hull of one wooden boat that washed ashore on Miyazawa beach in the northwest of Japan's main island of Honshu.

Related: Kim Jong Un May Have Caused a Parasitic Worm Epidemic in North Korea By Making Farmers Spread Human Faeces on Their Crops

According to CNN the unidentified "ghost ship" was spotted by the Akita Coast Guard drifting offshore Friday but it wasn't until it came into land that the grisly discovery was made.

It is not entirely clear the boat came from North Korea but the discovery of the wooden vessel fits a pattern of debris and other boats being washed up from the waters of the hermit nation on the Japanese coast, officials said.

Satoru Miyamoto, a professor at Seigakuin University, explained the number of these kind of ships finding their way to Japanese shores had risen since 2013. Their arrival appeared to be in conjunction with a military scheme to expand the North Korean fisheries industry.

"It's after Kim Jong Un decided to expand the fisheries industry as a way of increasing revenue for the military. They are using old boats manned by the military, by people who have no knowledge about fishing," Miyamoto said. "It will continue."

The recent discovery of as many as eight bodies in one vessel recalls the arrival of more than a dozen ships containing bodies in 2015. Contemporary reports claimed the bodies could belong to desperate fishermen driven into treacherous waters by food shortages in North Korea.

Other experts said at the time the 2015 arrivals could have been the result of a refugee exodus.

In January 2017 Japanese authorities rescued a crew of 26 North Koreans sinking in a tanker off the Islands of Goto. They were later collected by another North Korean vessel.

Pyongyang has regularly claimed that those washing up on the shores of neighboring countries from North Korea are not attempting to flee but rather have simply made navigational errors. Several North Korean fishermen rescued earlier this month have since returned home.

Their return flies in the face of a series of high-profile defections this year. In one such escape, earlier this month, one soldier made a dramatic defection over the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea in a hail of bullets fired by his former comrades.

Medical examinations carried out by the South Koreans on the soldier found he was suffering from a number of parasitic worms as well as from poor nutrition. Experts have said his general condition has pointed to the desperate state of healthcare and diet in North Korea.

Mysterious North Korean Ghost Ships Full Of Skeletons Wash Up In Japan | World