Eight bodies that washed ashore aboard a boat in northern Japan are believed to be North Korean defectors. When spotted on a beach Sunday morning, the wooden vessel was so battered that some of bodies had been reduced to just bone, according to Japan’s Kyodo News.
“I was surprised to see the boat in such a bad condition,” the 68 year-old woman who first saw the boat told rescue workers, Kyodo News reports. The Japan Coast Guard said it first saw the craft last Friday, but bad weather prevented quicker inspection.
Clues left behind on the boat suggest the itinerants defected from North Korea, 450 miles from the shore. Investigators found unused life-vests with Korean lettering and an empty cigarette pack of a popular brand in North Korea, the Washington Post reports.
The discovery of the “ghost ship” follows a string of similar incidents. Last week, a North Korean fishing boat was found carrying eight men 44 miles south of the latest discovery. So far this year, 44 North Korean boats are believed to have washed up on Japan’s shore. In 2016, there were 66. Some experts say the episodes suggest food shortages in the reclusive state, according to Sky News.