'Ghost ship' of decomposed bodies washed ashore in Sea of Japan

'Ghost ship' of decomposed bodies washed ashore in Sea of Japan

"Following a search with police, eight bodies of unknown nationality were found on board", Japan's coast guard said.

Authorities have speculated that the ship originated from North Korea, making it the latest boat to have arrived from the secretive state to Japanese shores.

Bodies that had been reduced to skeletons were found on Monday in a small wooden ship that washed up on a beach in northern Japan, the country's coast guard said.

Last Friday another fishing vessel was found at a marina 50km south of the latest discovery. Two more bodies were found amid wreckage in Sado, Niigata Prefecture.

Investigations are underway and there is a possibility the boat is of North Korean origin, the coast guard said.

Earlier this month, the Japanese Coast Guard rescued three North Korean crew members from their capsised fishing vessel in the Sea of Japan and handed them over to another North Korean ship.

The decomposing remains of ten people have been found in wrecked ships along Japan's coast, just opposite North Korea.

Professor Yoshihiko Yamada, from Japan's Tokai University, said: "During the summer, the Sea of Japan is quite calm".

Last week Korean authorities released details of a high profile defection of a young North Korean soldier who crossed the heavily-guarded demilitarised zone. Dramatic video shows how the soldier used a jeep to flee from comrades under a hail of gunfire.

But as winter approaches, fishermen in the Sea of Japan face more hostile weather as water gets more choppy, according to Seo. "It gets risky when northwesterly winds start to blow", he said.

Forty-four wooden ships believed to be from the Korean peninsula have washed up on Japanese shores - or drifted off the country's coast - so far this year, compared to 66 in the whole of 2016.

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