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Ghost Ships Found Near Japan

The mystery started in early November 2015 when four empty wooden ships were found in the Sea of Japan, the body of water between Japan and Russia, South Korea and North Korea. Since then, an additional seven wooden vessels have been found, with the Japanese Coast Guard reporting at least 20 skeletons and decomposing corpses on them. The most recently discovered boat was brought to port in Fukui and reportedly contained seven bodies. All the bodies were "partially skeletonized" -- two were found without heads -- and one boat contained six skulls, the coast guard said. The first boat was found in October, then a series of boats were found in November. The skeletons and badly decomposed bodies of seven people dressed in clothes that bore labels written in Korean Hangul script. Alongside them was squid-fishing equipment and empty plastic bottles and cigarette packets.

More recently, a Japanese ghost ship, the Ryou-Un Maru, which had been washed out to sea by the 2011 tsunami, showed up a year later off the coast of Alaska and was sank by the US Coast Guard.
A wooden boat believed to be from North Korea that was found drifting off the coast of Japan

The identities of the corpses found aboard a capsized fishing boat off the Japan sea coast last month will be forever shrouded in mystery. The remains have been cremated, the ashes unclaimed. Soon the rickety wooden vessel that took its occupants to their deaths will be destroyed too.

Some in the Japanese media believe the vessels were fishing vessels that strayed off course, while others suggest they could be transporting defectors. The poor condition of the boat, the lack of equipment and, in one case, the discovery of a Kim Jong-il lapel badge all point to one country of origin: North Korea.

With no official diplomatic channels to pursue, there has been no reported contact between Pyongyang and Tokyo about the vessels or their occupants. In fact, many wrecked boats thought to be from North Korea drift towards Japan every year. More than 60 were discovered last year – most of them empty – according to the coastguard. In 2013 the number totalled 80. So far this year, 34 mystery boats have arrived, driven by fierce currents and a strong prevailing southwesterly wind.


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