Japanese public broadcaster NHK reports almost a dozen small wooden ships filled with dead bodies have washed up along Japan's shore in the last two months. Authorities think the ships are coming from North Korea.
A total of 11 ships with about 25 dead bodies have been found with the cause of death believed to be exposure and starvation. Some of the bodies were decomposed to the point of being "partially skeletonized", according to CNN.
Authorities aren't entirely sure why the boats are showing up with dead passengers, but they are fairly certain they are coming from North Korea. A piece of cloth resembling the North Korean flag was found on one of the boats, and another was labeled as belonging to the Korean People's Armies.
A maritime expert interviewed by the NHK said the wooden boats resembled those that have previously arrived carrying defectors from the Korean dictatorship, and could easily have been sent awry on the ocean.
"They are made of wood and are old and heavy. They can't travel very fast and the engines are not powerful enough to turn the ships against the currents," Yoshihiko Yamada said to the NHK.
But, according to Reuters, defectors fleeing the regime of Kim Jong-Un are more likely to head to mainland China. These boats are more likely to be wayward fishing vessels from the North Korean army.
"North Korean army units and security agencies are running many businesses to earn foreign currency from mining gold to catching fish on the west and east coasts," North Korean defector Lee So-yeon told Reuters.
Because the boats are wooden, have primitive engines, and lack any modern navigation equipment, even a minor miscalculation could have turned deadly for those on board.