According to the Shimane District Coast Guard, “They said they had departed North Korea in the middle of December to go fishing, but their engine failed, and they had been drifting ever since. They denied they had any intention of fleeing North Korea and asked to be returned as soon as possible to their home country.
However, when Coast Guardsmen searched the boat, there was no trace of any fishing gear or fishing activity. Once they had fed the men, the Coast Guard took the boat under tow and turned the three survivors over to Immigration for processing and repatriation to North Korea.
The striking lack of fishing gear and the dead body (apparently dead from exposure) has awakened memories of what some Shimane newspapers dubbed, “Christmas presents.”
During the Kim Jong Il era, particularly when North Korean spies landed in Japan in the beginning of every year to carry out kidnappings and military exercises off the coast of Japan, several North Korean corpses would wash ashore. Occasionally, they were dressed in North Korean military uniforms and carried full identification. It was thought that they drowned during war games held in the Sea of Japan.
During this same period, Shimane had several other strange visitors. On one occasion, dozens of what appeared to be weather balloons with markings in Hangul (Korean script), which implied they originated in North Korea, landed in Shimane and neighboring prefectures. Many floats have also drifted ashore to Shimane and neighboring prefectures.
There were other similarly puzzling finds, such as North Korean underwater motor scooters used to pull divers along underwater in Shimane Prefecture harbors, or on the other side of Japan when the underwater power cables running to islands off the shore of Atami near Shizuoka were cut undersea.
The Japanese Coast Guard’s sinking of a North Korean spy ship put an end to all such incidents — until now.
Although a minor occurrence, coming as it does so close to the death of Kim Jong Il and a change in leadership, the question is whether it is possible that the North Koreans have once again become active off the coast of Japan.