by Aramie Louisville Vas
Four bodies were found Sunday off the coast of Japan’s Honshu island. At least 12 boats in all have been found, the boats themselves weathered in such a way that it appeared they had been at sea for quite some time. The decaying, partially skeletonized bodies of 22 people have been found on board; two bodies were found without heads.
The first boat was found in October, then more were spotted in November. The lettering on one boat read “Korean People’s Army”, which is the name of North Korea’s military defense. A cloth scrap from one of the boats appears to be part of the North Krean flag. As such, it is thought that the bodies may have been those of North Korean defectors. Another possibility has been raised that these are fishing boats strayed off course, but, what? Did a small fishing crew steal a bunch of military boats on a jaunt one day because theirs were in the shop? The latter is the less likely theory.
John Nilsson-Wright, a senior university lecturer in Japanese Politics and International Relations at Cambridge University told CNN, “The economic conditions remain poor [in North Korea],” and also said, “The attractiveness of finding an opportunity to get safe refuge overseas remains … very powerful.”
North Korea earned the unofficial title of “most oppressed country in the world” under the reign (and tight reins) of Kim Jong-il, and that oppression for the most part continues under his son, Kim Jong-un.
“…for those people living outside of [North Korean capital] Pyongyang … life remains extraordinarily hard,” says Nilsson-Wright. “It may be an economic necessity as much as a desire for political freedom (that is) encouraging some people in the North to try and leave the country.”