MATSUE, SHIMANE PREF. – Four men claiming to be from North Korea arrived on an island in western Japan on Tuesday, after their boat apparently lost power and came under the protection of Japanese authorities, police said.
A wooden boat about 9.3 meters long and 2.4 meters wide was found on the shore nearby and the men told the authorities their names and dates of birth, according to the police.
A male resident of the town of Okinoshima, Shimane Prefecture, located on one of the Oki Islands in the Sea of Japan, reported seeing the men in the morning, police said.
The men told investigators that they left North Korea in early December on a fishing trip and were scheduled to return in a couple of days, but that their boat drifted off course due to engine problems, the police said Wednesday. They denied any intention to defect, according to police.
Takeko Murakami, an 83-year-old resident, offered rice balls and water to the men, who were exhausted and freezing, after they asked her for help.
“I didn’t understand their language but I wasn’t scared,” she said, adding that one of the men who appeared to be the leader bowed his head in appreciation after she gave them jackets.