THE rising number of "ghost ships" washing up in Japan are a sign Kim Jong-un is losing his grip on power, say experts.
Just last week eight bodies were recovered from a wrecked North Korean vessel which had washed ashore in Kanazawa.
The number of ghost ships – those discovered with no surviving crew – reached 104 last year which is the highest since records began.
And experts believe that's a clear sign that national security is "disintegrating" under Kim as the international community turns the screw.
One told Business Insider that the sheer number of these boats indicate the despot's weakening grip over his country and people.
Hazel Smith, Professorial Research Associate at London's School of African and Oriental Studies, said : "Security is disintegrating.
"There was always an incentive for people to get hold of a boat to try to fish and come back and sell it and make some money, but security was always extremely tight.
"You had mined beaches, you had surveillance on the coast, so the fact that this is happening is not a surprise economically — people are taking the opportunities while they can.
"What it shows also is the disintegration of the state's ability to stop people going out in boats."
Smith – who used to live in the rogue state – said the big change is North Korea no longer has the "capacity" to control its borders liked it used to.
She puts this down to Kim's increasing focus on his nuclear weapons programme and crippling international sanctions.
She said: "They're focusing on the nuclear issue, and they don't have the capacity to focus on every aspect of economic activity."
In November, the remains of eight people were found on an unmanned ‘ghost ship’ in Japan in the latest of a string of shocking seashore discoveries.
Some of the cadavers were reduced to bone when officials found the crewless 23ft wooden boat washed up on a beach in the northern Akita territory.
Two further bodies were found in separate places on the edge of the surf on Sado isand, which lies 450 miles from North Korea.
Their putrefying bodies could not yet be identified, though boxes of North Korean tobacco and Korean script lay nearby, along with a wrecked wooden boat.
The disturbing discoveries come days after a group of eight survivors washed ashore in the same area, claiming to be North Korean fisherman.
Television footage in the city of Yurihonjo on Japan's northwestern coast showed a wooden boat rigged with bare light bulbs, used to attract fish and squid.
It was not clear whether the people on the boat were in fact fishermen who got into trouble at sea, or possible defectors from North Korea.
About 30,000 North Koreans have defected since the devastating famine in the mid-90s.
It is possible that the so-called ‘ghost ships’ could be down to North Korean attempts to satisfy hunger by demanding vast quotas of seafood.
Dozens of North Korean fishing vessels wash up on Japan's Sea of Japan coast every year.
Sometimes their occupants have already died at sea, with headless skeletons and rotten corpses ending up in Japan's fishing ports.
In late 2015, at least 14 weathered vessels with almost two dozen bodies reached Japanese shores or were found floating in regional waters.
Sky News reported that 44 boats full of dead people had washed up in 2016 alone.
Despite stormy relations between the two countries, the Japanese coastguard also regularly rescues North Korean fishermen in maritime accidents.
https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thesun.co.uk%2Fnews%2F5459204%2Fnorth-korean-ghost-ships-full-of-dead-sailors-keep-washing-up-in-japan-and-its-considered-a-sign-kim-jong-un-may-be-losing-his-grip-on-power%2F&text=” target=”_blank” title=”Click to share on Twitter