Poor weather in the Sea of Japan, coupled with the continuing effect of sanctions applied against North Korea, has meant that many residents of coastal towns and villages in North Korea who have taken to the sea in what North Korea refers to the ‘winter fishing onslaught’ have been carried out to sea by strong winds and high waves only to end up on uninhabited islands in the Sea of Japan, or else in Japan’s EEZ and territorial shoreline. They have then either been picked up by the Japan Coast Guard or spotted by Japanese fishermen. Some, however, have not been as fortunate, and have apparently died at sea before the boats carrying their corpses have landed on Japanese territory.
This harrowing state of affairs is set to become more dreadful as the month progresses, with expectations that there will be another spike in sightings before the year has ended. The combined effects of the above factors, coupled with the deterioration in the state of North Korea’s fishing fleet, will force more North Korean vessels to either seek shelter on Japan’s shores or risk trying to haul in a catch and return to North Korea in the face of bad weather. The more episodes of ‘ghost ships’ turning up on Japan’s shorelines will, however, focus attention on the plight of the North Korean people, whose fate has been somewhat consumed by the larger issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.