A North Korean boater was found near the coast of South Korea in the Sea of Japan on Monday, the South’s Coast Guard said, more than a month after a spate of fishermen and boats from the Hermit Kingdom washed up along the Japanese coast.
The North Korean citizen was found in a small boat near Ulleung Island, just before 8 a.m., according to Yonhap News Agency. Authorities are investigating if the North Korean was attempting to defect to the South.
The North Korean boat was abandoned at sea.
About 1,000 North Korean defect to the South yearly, but the number of defectors began to drop last year compared to previous years, according to the BBC.
A series of odd Hermit Kingdom finds in late November began washing ashore in Japan, including a skeleton-filled “ghost ship” and a body with North Korean words scribbled on it. Boats filled with North Korean fishermen were discovered several times, but they were ultimately sent back to the regime.
Officials linked the increase in North Koreans found at sea to a reported campaign by the North to send fishermen farther out for more catches. However, it’s unclear if people aboard those boats that drift near Japanese shores each year intend to defect or are simply unable to make their way back in unseaworthy wooden vessels.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.