Eight bodies found in boat washed up on Japan beach

TOKYO (Reuters) - Eight bodies, which had been reduced partly to skeletons, were found on Monday in a small wooden ship that washed up on a beach in the sea of Japan, the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) said.

The ship came ashore on a beach 70 km (44 miles) north of a marina where police last week found eight men who said they were from North Korea. Police said they appeared to be fishermen whose boat, found nearby, had run into trouble.

The JCG said they were working to establish the nationalities of the eight bodies on the ship.

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North Koreans wash ashore in Japan
A wooden boat is seen in front of a breakwater in Yurihonjo, Akita Prefecture, Japan November 24, 2017. Kyodo reported the boat washed ashore carrying eight men claiming to be from North Korea. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT.
The wreckage of a boat is pictured along a sea wall in the city of Yurihonjo, Akita prefecture on November 24, 2017. A group of eight fishermen claiming to be from North Korea washed up in northern Japan after drifting there when their wooden vessel developed problems, authorities said on November 24. / AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS / - / Japan OUT (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
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The bodies of two males, similarly partly skeletonized, were also found at the weekend on the western shore of the Sea of Japan island of Sado.

Although the nationalities of these two have not yet been established, what appeared to be North Korean cigarettes and life jackets with Korean lettering on them were nearby, the JCG's Sado station said.

Both local police and the JCG said the two may have been from North Korea.

The incidents come at a time of rising tension over North Korea's nuclear arms and missile programs after President Donald Trump redesignated the isolated nation a state sponsor of terrorism, allowing the United States to levy further sanctions.

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Experts say North Korea's food shortages could be behind what is potentially a series of accidents involving North Korean ships.

"North Korea pushes so hard for its people to gather more fish so that they can make up their food shortages," said Seo Yu-suk, research manager of North Korean Studies Institution in Seoul.

Small and old North Korean ships that sail beyond its coastal waters are vulnerable to bad weather, he said.

Yoshihiko Yamada, professor at Japan's Tokai University, said fishermen operating in the Sea of Japan have just entered a season of hostile weather conditions.

RELATED: Everything you didn't know about Kim Jong Un

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Everything you didn't know about Kim Jong Un
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Everything you didn't know about Kim Jong Un

1. While Kim Jong Un's birthday on January 8 is a national holiday, it is unknown exactly how old the North Korean leader is. It's widely believed he is in his early-mid thirties. In 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department listed his birth year as 1984 when they placed sanctions on North Korea.

 (KCNA via REUTERS)

2. Kim Jong Un is the world's youngest leader, according to the date listed by the Treasury. 

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

3. Kim Jong Un is very passionate about basketball. He is reportedly a big fan of Michael Jordan and has a friendly relationship with Jordan's former Chicago Bulls teammate Dennis Rodman. Rodman has visited the secluded nation multiple times and even sang him "Happy Birthday" before an exhibition game in Jan. 2014. 

(REUTERS/KCNA)

4. Kim Jong Un reportedly has a love for smoking, whiskey and cheese

(KCNA/via Reuters)

5. Kim Jong Un's older half-brother Kim Jong Nam was killed in Feb. 2017 by two women who smeared VX nerve agent on his face at an airport in Kuala Lumpur. The women were arrested following his death. Many believe the hit was directed by North Korea. 

(KCNA; REUTERS)

6. Kim Jong Un has two college degrees. One is in physics from Kim il Sung University and another as an Army officer obtained from the Kim Il Sung Military University.

(KCNA/REUTERS)

7. Kim Jong Un attended boarding school in Switzerland. It is widely disputed how much time he spent at the school. Most reports say he was abroad from 1998-2000. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)

8. Kim Jong Un is the only general in the world that does not have any military experience. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)

9. He married Ri Sol Ju in 2009. The couple has at least one daughter named Ju Ae. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)

10. Kim Jong Un had his uncle Jang Song Thaek arrested and executed for treachery in 2013. 

(REUTERS/Kyodo)

11. Kim Jong Un hand selected North Korea's first all-female music group -- Moranbong Band. They made their debut in 2012. 

(ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)

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"During the summer, the Sea of Japan is quite calm. But it starts to get choppy when November comes. It gets dangerous when northwesterly winds start to blow," he said.

A total of 43 wooden ships that were believed to have come from the Korean peninsula washed up on Japanese shores or were seen to be drifting off Japan's coast from January to Nov. 22 this year, compared with 66 ships for the whole of last year, the JCG said.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka in TOKYO, Haejin Choi in SEOUL; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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