The rise of North Korean "ghost ships" that swept the coast of Japan in recent weeks, including some boats full of skeletal remains ̵
Three other bodies, allegedly from North Korea, were recovered off the coast of Sakata in Yamagata prefecture on Monday, two days after an empty ship in ruins was dragged ashore, Japan's coast guard said. . The discovery is just one of 28 ships that arrived on the Japanese coast off North Korea this year, about four more compared to last year.
In general, only empty boats are found. But at least 18 bodies have been discovered this year. At the end of November, a 22-foot wooden boat containing eight bodies was found, described as "skeletonized" because they were so decomposed.
The decrepit state of "ghost ships" and bodies has made it difficult for authorities to decipher how deadly seafarers died and ended up in Japanese waters. Pyon Jinil, an observer and writer from North Korea, told AFP that North Koreans are starving due to the recent economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations in response to Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests.
"Each North Korean person now receives only 300 grams of food per day," said Pyon. "To cover the shortage of staple foods like rice and corn, they want to buy from China, but they do not have strong foreign currency to buy food either."
Toshimitsu Shigemura, professor emeritus of the University of Waseda and North The Korean expert also pointed out that the desperation to comply with fishing quotas has pushed fishermen to travel further. Kim Jong Un is trying to make North Korea self-sufficient in food, but its protein sources continue to fall. health problems caused by the lack of a varied and balanced diet.
"Fishermen are desperate to meet their annual catch targets, which rise to higher levels every year," said Shigemura.
Pyon added: "Since then, fishermen have been frantically trying to meet [annual] catch objectives, but what is different this year is that they travel to distant waters on their fragile vessels."
Pyon said that Kim Jong Un sold part of North Korea's fishing rights in the Yellow Sea to China to pump more foreign currency into the regime's economy. In turn, the despot ordered the fishermen "to establish a fishing base in the Sea of Japan."
But the measure could also be a violation of Japan's 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone west of the northern shores of Japan, an area known to be a rich fishing area.
But the North Korean ships barely stand the rough seas during their long journeys and often crumble before reaching Japan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.