SADO ISLAND, JAPAN — Japanese authorities discovered the bow of a wooden boat believed to be from North Korea on the coast of Japan's Sado Island in the Sea of Japan on December 27.
Seven partially skeletonized remains were found inside the vessel, reports NHK World News.
Three bodies were found with heads, two bodies were found without heads and two heads were found without bodies, the Associated Press reports, citing officials.
All of the bodies were confirmed to be male, though officials said it is unclear whether or not the separate heads and the bodies came from the same people.
According to NHK World News, the side of the boat bore Korean characters and numbers that were painted in red.
The vessel's bow was measured to be roughly 7.6 meters long and 2 meters in height." These boats could have been involved in illegal fishing operations in the Sea of Japan, Nikkei Asian Review reports, citing authorities.
Mitsuhiro Mimura, a researcher at Japan's Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia, told the publication that this is partially due to the fact that North Korea sold fishing rights around its own coastal areas to China, forcing North Korea fishermen to go further out at sea in run down wooden boats.
A number of wooden boats typically wash ashore during this time of the year after northwesterly winds blow the vessels off course, as reported by NHK World News.