TOKYO – The number of North Korean fishing boats that has washed ashore on the Japanese coast increased in November, according to the Japanese authorities Thursday.
Throughout November, 24 North Korean fishing boats have ended up in Japanese waters, and crew members have been rescued or sometimes found dead, a Coast Guard spokesperson told EFE.
The number constitutes nearly half of the 55 similar cases registered this year by the Japanese authorities, which have so far rescued a total of 11 North Koreans and recovered 18 bodies.
The Coast Guard believes that in many cases these North Korean fishing boats have wandered off its territorial waters in search of catches or that they were tossed by strong currents, common during this period of the year.
The recent case, in which all crew members were rescued alive, occurred on Nov. 23, when a 20-meter long boat with eight people on board was intercepted on Amori coast in Japan’s northwest.
People on board told the authorities that the ship broke down after leaving North Korea a month and a half ago to catch squid, and expressed their desire to return to their country, according to the Japanese government.
After three days, a 7-meter-long wooden and visibly damaged boat washed up on the beach in Akita in the northeast with eight bodies on board.
The Japanese Coast Guard also spotted another North Korean vessel on Wednesday near an uninhabited island in northern Japan, and after communicating with the crew, began to tow the boat to calmer waters and inspected it.
Its ten crew members took temporary shelter from stormy weather, and asked the Coast Guard for a meal, according to state-owned broadcaster NHK.
In case the North Korean crew members are rescued alive, the Japanese authorities repatriate them through China or another country, since Japan does not maintain diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.
Some experts have said that the increase in international sanctions against North Korea, together with the shortage of crops in winter, could propel the fishermen to venture away from North Korean waters in search of seafood, which is very popular in the local market.