The remains of a "ghost ship" is seen on the sea wall of Yurihonjo, Japan | Photo courtesy of NPR

North Korea sends an eerie gift to Japan


North Korean Fishing Boats dubbed “Ghost Ships”
by the Japanese | Photo Courtesy of Los Angeles Times

A series of mysterious boats filled with human skeletons and bodies have washed up on the eastern shore of Japan, thought to be from North Korea.

Named “ghost ships,” for their eerie sights, the severely damaged vessels arrive day after day, the first, on Nov. 18 with three bodies in the boat. Weeks followed and ships would come one after the other.

The boats are confirmed to be North Korean due to the lettering style, and passenger’s badges with North Korean symbols.

As of Dec. 7, a total of 12 ships, stretching from 7 to 12.5 meters long, washed up on the shore near Oga City, Japan. A total of 22 decaying bodies have been found on the boats, and there is no evidence as to when this will end.

It is unclear how long the victims have been at sea. The North Koreans that arrive safely are in critical condition with multiple forms of parasitic worms, partially due to their voyage, and in part due to the conditions in North Korea. Upon request, some survivors are returned to their homeland.

Days later a boat with a group of men claiming to be North Korean also came across the shore. This has been a recurring event throughout the month of November.

The same events occurred in 2015 when 12 “ghost ships” washed upon the Japanese shore. The Japanese coast guard are constantly rescuing stranded Korean fishermen.  

Just this past January, Japanese authorities collected a crew of 26 North Koreans from a sinking tanker in southwest Japan.

Japanese crews clean up the remains of a “ghost
ship”| Photo Courtesy of YouTube

These incidents are believed to be a result of Kim Jong Un’s decision to expand the fishing industry to increase revenue for the military. Old boats are given to North Koreans with no knowledge about fishing, so they are stranded in rough waters, where they will eventually be carried to the shores of Japan.

There are suspicions that while some of the boats are for fishing, some may carry defectors attempting to flee North Korea.

The boats suspected to be transporting defectors are supposedly taking the route through the East Sea, because of restrictions and policing on the traditional route through  China borders.

For now, the Japanese Coast Guards will continue to rescue and collect the ships. It is unclear if North Korea is aware of the events and whether they will take action soon.

Written by Jana Ariss

Jana is a Senior at MC and the Co-Editor in Chief of The MC Sun.

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