National

Seven bodies found in capsized wooden boat likely from North Korea

Kyodo

Police said Tuesday that seven bodies have been found in a capsized wooden boat washed ashore in Ishikawa Prefecture, as vessels believed to be from North Korea continue to turn up on the Sea of Japan coastline.

The 16-meter-long boat was found in Kanazawa last Wednesday. The bodies of seven men, lying inside small rooms in the boat, were largely decayed, the police said.

The police also found a badge bearing a portrait of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il as well as a cigarette box with Hangul letters. A search of the boat had been delayed by bad weather.

Last Wednesday, the police and the Japan Coast Guard discovered another body about 15 meters from where the boat was found. An autopsy showed the man was in his 30s to 50s and had died around last September.

Autopsies will be carried out on the seven other bodies.

According to the coast guard, suspected cases of North Korean boat arrivals rose to a record high of 104 last year since comparable data became available in 2013.

More North Korean boats have operated in a rich fishing area for squid and crabs in the Sea of Japan in recent years, and the winter season’s rough sea conditions may have caused the boats to capsize, a coast guard official said.