Nine North Koreans who spent five days at sea in a small wooden boat were towed to a Japanese port Tuesday after they were spotted off the coast, officials said.

The people escaping North Korea, included three children, were questioned aboard a coast guard patrol ship as it towed their vessel to Kanazawa, a port city on the Sea of Japan coast.

“They said they left a port in North Korea last Thursday, hoping to reach South Korea,” a Japan Coast Guard spokesman said.

A man, who called himself the leader of the nine, reportedly told the coast guard: “I am a member of the People’s Army. The eight others are all relatives.”

The boat arrived at Kanazawa, 300 kilometers northwest of Tokyo, at 7:15 p.m., according to Japanese media.

North Korea
North Korea