TOKYO – The eight North Korean fishermen whose vessel washed ashore on the northern Japanese coast on Nov. 23 are set to be repatriated to North Korea through China on Tuesday, according to Japanese authorities.
The eight men, who are currently at the immigration center of Nagasaki prefecture in southern Japan, will be taken to Kansai airport in the west where they will board a China-bound flight, and will continue their onward journey to North Korea from there, government sources told the Japanese news agency Kyodo.
They washed up on the beach in Akita prefecture after their boat broke down while squid fishing, the men told the Japanese authorities.
In November alone, 24 North Korean fishing boats ended up in Japanese waters, which practically constitute half of the 55 similar cases registered this year by the Japanese authorities.
One of the cases, which received widespread media attention, was that of a group arrested for allegedly stealing home appliances and other equipment on an uninhabited islet in northern Japan, where the suspects took shelter after their boat went adrift.
The North Korean fishermen had taken a television, a motorcycle, a refrigerator, a rice cooker and other items belonging to a local fishermen’s cooperative, besides causing damage to the property, all of which was estimated to have cost about 8 million yen ($70,610), according to local media.
Shortly before the end of 2017, the number of North Korean boats that ended up on the Japanese coast have been recorded to be 66 in 2016, 45 in 2015, 65 in 2014 and 80 in 2013.
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 markets.