Sunday 31 January 2016

Ghost boats of the Sea of Japan

At regular intervals, ghost ships, or more precisely ghost boats about 30 feet long appear in the Sea of Japan. Last November alone, 13 were found drifting, deserted except for dead bodies – a total of 26, many of them already largely decomposed.

There are indications that they are from North Korea – a handwritten sign in one saying it belonged to a unit of the North Korean army, the tattered remains of a national flag, the boats’ dilapidated condition and the lack of equipment.

Were they carrying defectors? Apparently some of those who escaped the closed, repressive regime in the past arrived in such vessels. Or were they fishermen under pressure from their fanatical Communist government to get bigger catches, who strayed too far out to sea?

The last explanation would fit with the regime’s desperation to conceal the scale of North Korea’s dreadful food shortage. In spite of aid from abroad, there has been little improvement in production since the mass starvation of the early 2000s.

*For more on North Korea's famines, see A Disastrous History of the World. 

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