Five badly decomposed bodies, believed to be North Korean men, have been found in a wooden boat with Korean characters on its side off the coast of Japan, the BBC reported today.
Local fishermen found the 13-meter boat washed up on the rocky shore of Sado island in the Sea of Japan, Kyodo News reported.
The BBC said police had not confirmed their nationalities but suspected they were North Koreans.
Police believe the men died at least a month ago.
"We cannot determine their nationality yet. The boat seems to have been drifting in the sea for quite some time," a local police spokesman told Agence France-Presse.
Most North Koreans fleeing food shortages, repression and poverty in the isolated Stalinist state cross first into China before making their way to South Korea, though occasionally some escape by sea.
In September 2011, Japanese coastguard picked up nine North Koreans, AFP said. The three men, three women and three children had spent five days at sea. They were resettled in South Korea.
More from GlobalPost: Notorious North Korean prison camp is reportedly shuttered