TOKYO, Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Nearly a dozen fishing boats, some with bodies aboard, have been drifting into Japanese waters, raising speculations of migrations from nearby North Korea.
In the past two months, the Japanese coast guard has discovered 11 wooden boats, most in poor shape, either drifting off the coast or beached on land facing North Korea across the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea. Some of the boat had fishing gear. At least 25 bodies have been found aboard the vessels. The most recent boat found had three mostly-decomposed bodies.
"We are carrying out an investigation into these vessels and where they come from, although reports that Hangul characters were on the boats are correct," said coastguard spokesman Yoshiaki Hiroto, referring to the Korean alphabet.
Officials said it is unlikely the boats were being used by North Korean agents to infiltrate Japan or smuggle drugs because they were in such shoddy condition and lacked modern equipment such as radar. The boats may have been fishing vessels that drifted too far and and ran out of fuel, some speculate.