National

Over five years, 372 boats thought to be from North Korea have reached Japan, with 77 bodies

JIJI, Kyodo

The number of cases in which wooden boats believed to be from North Korea were found either adrift off the Sea of Japan coast or washed up on Japanese shores totaled 372 over the five years from fiscal 2013, the government has said.

A total of 77 dead bodies of apparent crew members and 19 survivors were confirmed, the government said Tuesday in a written response to a query from Upper House lawmaker Yoshifu Arita of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

According to the government, the number of such cases totaled 87 in fiscal 2013, 44 in fiscal 2014, 61 in fiscal 2015, 50 in fiscal 2016, and 130 in fiscal 2017.

The incidents were recorded in 13 prefectures. Of them, Niigata had the highest number, at 80, followed by Ishikawa, at 72, Akita, at 34, Aomori, at 24, and Shimane, at 23.

Regarding the treatment of survivors, the government explained that it is “appropriately handling them under related laws and ordinances,” adding that it covers all related disposal costs for such ships for local municipalities.

While the central government does provide funds to subsidize the entire cost of the removal, the process for applying for the additional funds takes a considerable amount of time. If removal work starts prior to the approval, the full cost falls to the local government, making the incidents difficult to resolve quickly. As a result, many boats remain where they wash up along the Sea of Japan coast.

North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Monday that the central committee of the country’s Red Cross Society has expressed gratitude to Japanese authorities, saying that the country provided humanitarian support over the past several years to North Korean crews who had been adrift so that they could return home safely.