Eight bodies were discovered aboard a vessel that was shipwrecked on a Japanese beach, authorities have confirmed.
The wooden ship was found washed ashore in the country's northern Aikita province. It had first been spotted on Friday but poor weather conditions had prevented the coast guard from reaching it until Monday morning (November 27).
According to the Japan Times, a 68-year-old woman witnessed coast guard workers carrying the remains onshore in stretchers. "I was surprised to see the boat in such a bad condition", she said. The bodies were in a state of advanced decomposition when they were found.
Authorities have speculated that the ship originated from North Korea, making it the latest boat to have arrived from the secretive state to Japanese shores.
Last Friday another fishing vessel was found at a marina 50km south of the latest discovery. Authorities say eight Korean-speaking men were found aboard a ship that had broken down and floated into Japanese waters. It is believed the fishermen have already returned to North Korea.
Earlier this month three men and seven bodies were found in two capsized boats on the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture. Empty boats with North Korean Hangul lettering have also been found in the Sea of Japan.
Last week Korean authorities released details of a high profile defection of a young North Korean soldier who crossed the heavily-guarded demilitarised zone. Dramatic video shows how the soldier used a jeep to flee from comrades under a hail of gunfire. He is now recovering in hospital after he suffered multiple gunshot wounds during his escape attempt.
Korean media reports claim pro-Western propaganda may have convinced him to make the dangerous escape to the South.