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Photo of the severely weathered and broken bow of a wooden fishing ship tossing in the waves on the shore

Five corpses and two human heads found on Korean ghost boat

PortandTerminal.com, December 28, 2019

How did five human corpses and two severed human heads come to be on a boat shipwrecked on Japan’s Sado Island? 

TOKYO, JAPAN – A badly damaged wooden boat washed ashore on Japan’s Sado Island. Five corpses and two human heads were discovered inside the shipwreck which is believed to be a North Korean so-called “Ghost Boat”.

Mysterious ghost boats have been washing up on the western shores of Japan over the past few years and are thought to be fishing vessels from North Korea. Often they carry only the decomposing bodies of the fisherman who manned them.

READ: FEATURE: The hellish life of a North Korean fisherman

This most recent ghost ship washed ashore on Japan’s Sado Island, northwest from the mainland, on Friday and authorities gained access on Saturday.

“Ghost boats” believed to hail from North Korea are a fairly common discovery on Japanese shores. (MAP CREDIT: BBC News)

The heavily damaged vessel had Korean lettering painted on its side.

Police could not confirm whether the two heads belonged to the corpses but Japanese media said the remains were “partially skeletonised” suggesting that they may have been at sea for a long time.

Background

Wooden fishing boat partly submerged and washing up on the shore against concrete wall retainers.
Hundreds of ghost boats have washed up on Japan’s shores on the past several years

In 2016, North Korea sold the fishing rights in some of its territorial waters to China for desperately needed hard currency. The South Korean government estimates that Pyongyang earned tens of millions of dollars from the deal.

But with Chinese fishing ships now operating along its coast, North Korean fishermen are forced to risk venturing farther out, often into foreign waters where they run into trouble. Their boats are old, poorly maintained and lack basic navigational equipment. Often they carry only the minimum fuel necessary due to fuel shortages.

This most recent grisly ghost boat adds to the troubles that Japan and South Korea have with their neighbour North Korea, as strained diplomatic ties over the North’s nuclear arms programme could make an investigation impossible to carry out.

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