North Korea defection
A wounded defecting North Korean soldier lies next to a wall after he was shot by North Korean border guards in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, in this still image taken from a video released by the United Nations Command (UNC), Nov. 22, 2017. Reuters

UPDATE: 5:32 a.m. EST — Police in Japan said that eight men who washed ashore in a wooden boat late Thursday were departing from North Korea a month ago and that "they were drifting because they were caught in a squid."

The men were said to be in their 30s and 50s and reportedly said they wanted to return to North Korea. The Japanese government said they have plans to repatriate if the police and maritime security authorities confirm that the men want to return to North Korea after confirming their identity and willingness to do so.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide said in a press conference: "We are investigating men and we will respond appropriately together with related organizations." Asked about the possibility that these men were North Korean agents, he said: "We are looking carefully at the situation, including that," Yonhap News reported.

Original Story:

Japanese police have been investigating eight men who were found on Japan's northern coast claiming they are from North Korea and have been washed ashore after their boat broke down.

Japan’s police said those men were found at Yurihonjo city’s marina late Thursday and were taken into custody.

Akita prefectural police said that they found the men after receiving a call that a group of suspicious men was standing around at the seaside in Yurihonjo town. Police also found a wooden boat at a nearby marina. The men told the authorities that their boat experienced difficulties and they ended up drifting into Japanese waters.

Police also mentioned that the men were in good health and spoke Korean. A Korean interpreter was also brought in to help with obtaining details of their story, reported broadcaster NHK. Further investigation into the incident has been underway.

The wreckage of what is believed to be North Korean boats regularly washes ashore in northern Japan during the winter season due to seasonal winds.

Although defections by boat to Japan are not common given the distance, they have happened before like in 2011, nine North Koreans attempted to sail to South Korea but ended up across the sea in Japan.

This month has also seen the high profile defection of a North Korean soldier to South Korea across the Demilitarized Zone last week. He was said to be the seventh soldier to defect since 2012. Before this year there were two soldier defections in 2012, one in 2015 and one in 2016.

On Wednesday, the U.S.-led U.N. Command released a dramatic video in a press release showing the shooting and rescue of the North Korean soldier, who was seen limping across the border after being shot at least five times.

The defector has been in South Korean custody. He was hospitalized and remains under supervision after two rounds of surgery that removed the bullets from his body.

The U.N. Command had said in their press release that North Korea violated the armistice agreement, ending the Korean War by firing across and physically crossing the border while pursuing the soldier.

Following the defection, North Korea supposedly changed its entire team of border security guards, as mentioned by an unnamed intelligence source Thursday.

According to a report by Yonhap News Agency, a South Korean news organization, the source said: “Signs were detected that North Korea has replaced all border security officials following the defection."

“Given this situation, commanders of the responsible military unit and senior officers might have undergone punishment,” he continued.

The intelligence source also added that North Korea reportedly closed the 72-hour bridge temporarily that the defector used to drive his vehicle towards the northern side of the Joint Security Area (JSA).

The recent defection was classified as a rare phenomenon as it happened through the JSA, which lies within the Demilitarized Zone that distinguishes the two Koreas.

The 24-year-old North Korean soldier has been reportedly suffering from several health injuries before he was shot at the border. Doctors operating on him found numerous parasites inside his body.