‘Ghost Ships’ on Japanese Coast Create Sensation


Tokyo: At least 12 “ghost ships” carrying 22 decomposing bodies have appeared along Japan’s northwestern shore since October, said the Japanese coast guard. Though it’s thought that the “primitive” wooden boats are Korean, the identities of the victims on board are unclear. They could be North Korean defectors who set out to sea in search of asylum. Or they might be fishermen who, in desperate hope of increasing their catch, strayed dangerously far from their home ports.

The boats’ sparse cargo and humble exteriors offer some clues about their origins – fishing nets, signs written in Korean – but do little to explain what tragedy brought them to Japan’s shores.

“We know that the regime in North Korea is pushing its farmers and fishermen to produce greater amounts of food,” Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University’s Japanese campus, said. “To my mind, the most likely explanation is that these were simply fishermen who were trying to fulfill large quotas and simply ran out of fuel too far out at sea to get home.”

The “primitive looking” motorized boats, each about 10 meters (about 32 feet) to 12 meters long, were not equipped with GPS navigation, the Japan Times reported. Adrift and ill-equipped for an extended time at sea, their crews likely died of exposure or hunger.
In most cases, the bodies were in such bad shape it was impossible to determine the cause of death. One boat that came ashore late last month held six skulls, assorted other remains and only one full body with a head attached. It was described as “nearly intact.”

Though ghastly, the appearance of the “ghost ships” is sadly common in Japan – the numbers this year haven’t even been particularly high. According to the Japan Times, 34 of the boats have drifted over since the beginning of the year, compared with 65 in 2014 and 80 the year before that.

The numbers are especially high during the fall and winter because of cold prevailing winds from the northwest, coast guard spokesman Yoshiaki Hiroto said.

The season is also the prime period for squid, sandfish and king crab – valuable export products, according to sources.

Source: Washington post