Nine North Koreans arrived in Japan on Tuesday in a small fishing boat. A spokesman for the Japanese Coast Guard said the fishing boat carrying nine presumed defectors was found adrift in the early morning near Nanatsu Island off Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture.
A coast guard patrol boat towed them to Kanazawa Port, where they are being questioned, he added.
Aboard were three men, three women, and three children. They reportedly told officials they are members of a family and want to defect to South Korea.
The 8 m wooden motor boat had no GPS equipment or life jackets. It contained food when it was found, but the nine appeared to have run out of drinking water.
This was the third time North Koreans made it to Japan in a fishing boat. Eleven North Koreans arrived there in January 1987 and four in June 2007. The Japanese government handed them over to South Korea.
A South Korean Foreign Ministry official said the ministry will "take necessary measures in accordance with general principles in handling North Korean defectors" if the nine are confirmed to be defectors and "have a clear desire" to come to South Korea.