Rotting bodies found in boat off Japanese coast
A wooden boat containing several rotting bodies and with Korean characters marked on its side has been found on the rocky shores of a Japanese island off the country’s west coast, local police said Wednesday.
The boat, 13 metres long, was discovered off the coast of Sado island, which lies in the Sea of Japan, a stretch of water known as the East Sea by Koreans, police said.
“The bodies are decomposed badly and we still cannot confirm exactly how many of them there are,” said a local police spokesman, adding that belongings and rubbish were scattered inside.
The Kyodo News agency and the Yomiuri Shimbun daily said there were five bodies in the boat.
Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that all those on board were males.
The police spokesman said the Korean characters were impossible to read.
“We cannot determine their nationality yet. The boat seems to have been drifting in the sea for quite some time,” he said.
In January Japan’s coastguard found three people adrift in a small boat off the country’s west coast.
The three North Koreans and another man, who had died of hypothermia, were originally thought to be defectors from the communist state.
But they told officials their boat had developed engine trouble during a fishing trip and they had unintentionally drifted. They were later repatriated.
The bulk of would-be refugees from North Korea cross first into China to escape repression, poverty and food shortages in the isolated nation.
Nine North Koreans – three men, three women and three children – were picked up by Japan’s coastguard in September last year after spending five days at sea. They then travelled to South Korea to settle there.