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Pacific News Minute: Eight Bodies Aboard Suspected North Korean Fishing Boat that Washed Up in Japan

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

As you’ve been hearing on the NPR news, North Korea fired a ballistic missile yesterday that landed in the Sea of Japan. At the same time, fishing boats believed to be from North Korea have been washing up on Japan’s west coast. The most recent, with eight bodies aboard. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

The Japanese Coast Guard made the grisly discovery on Sunday, as they boarded a 20 foot wooden boat adrift off Miyazawa Beach in Akita Prefecture. Along with decomposed remains, they found a cigarette pack from North Korea. In a separate incident, the bodies of two men washed ashore on Sado Island over the weekend, along with what looks like debris from another wooden boat. And that comes after eight men came ashore last Thursday.

They identified themselves as North Koreans and said they’d been fishing for squid in the Sea of Japan when their boat broke down. Police found a fifty foot boat nearby, which later sank at its mooring.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, told reporters on Monday that the investigation into the case will include the possibility of illegal fishing. The waters between Korea and the west coast of Japan are rich fishing grounds, particularly the Yamato Basin, which is inside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

A Coast Guard spokesman said that almost 2,000 North Korean fishing boats have been warned away from that area just since July, and Yoishihiko Yamada of Tokai University is among the experts speculating that food shortages may be driving North Korean fishermen to take small boats on risky voyages.

“During the summer, the Sea of Japan is quite calm,” he told ABC Australian radio, “But it starts to get choppy when November comes; it gets dangerous when north-westerly winds start to blow.” And, last week, the winds were fierce.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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