Mystery over Japans 'Ghost Ships'

Over the past few months at least 12 wooden boats have been found adrift or on the coast, carrying the most chilling cargo - the decaying bodies of 22 people, police and Japan's coast guard said. 

All the bodies were ‘partially skeletonized’ and two were found without heads, another boat contained six skulls. The first boat was found in October, and a series of boats were found in November.. 

Coast guard officials are trying to unravel the riddle of where these ghostly boats came from and what happened to those on board. The bodies discovered are believed to be those of soldiers turned fishermen, and the best guess so far is that the ships are from North Korea. 

Some believe those on the boats were defectors; others speculated they were spies. The most plausible explanation is less dramatic: that they are the victims of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s latest bid to boost seafood production amid expected food shortages among his 1.2-million-strong army and the promise of more foreign currency from lucrative exports to China. 

The majority of the boats were found carrying basic fishing equipment, nets and signs written in Korean script. In the grimmest discovery of all, 10 badly decomposed bodies were found in a single vessel with markings that said Korean People’s Army, the official name of North Korea’s military. There were also pieces of what appeared to be a North Korean flag. 

Perhaps the most likely explanation is that they were simply fishermen who were trying to fulfil large quotas and simply ran out of fuel and food too far out at sea to get home safely.