North Korea releases detained Australian student

Alex Sigley, 29, is released following the intervention of Sweden, one of the few countries with an embassy in North Korea.

Sara Rubenstein,

Australian student Alek Sigley, 29, who was detained in North Korea, arrives at
Australian student Alek Sigley, 29, who was detained in North Korea, arrives at
REUTERS/Issei Kato

Alek Sigley, a 29-year old Australian student who went missing in North Korea for over a week was released and is safe and sound in Japan, where his wife resides.

“I just want everyone to know I am okay, and to thank them for their concern for my wellbeing and their support for my family over the past week,” he said. “I’m very happy to be back with my wife, Yuka, and to have spoken with my family in Perth [Australia] to reassure them I’m well.”

“I intend now to return to normal life but wanted to first publicly thank everyone who worked to ensure I was safe and well.”

Sigley thanked Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Sweden’s Special Envoy to North Korea, Kent Rolf Magnus Harstedt, who intervened on his behalf with North Korean officials.

“There are many other people whose names I don’t know who worked hard in the background as well. I’d like to thank those at the Department of Foreign Affairs in particular,” Sigley said.

“My family and friends are always a source of love and support but have been even more so at this time. I also appreciate all the good wishes that myself, my family and my friends have received.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Sigley's release in parliament on Thursday. “We are pleased to announce that Mr. Alek Sigley has today been released from detention in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK),” Morrison said. “He is safe and well,” adding that Sigley's release was the result of “discreet, behind the scenes work of officials in resolving complex and sensitive consular cases.”

Australia does not have an embassy in North Korea but was assisted by Sweden, one of the few countries to maintain an embassy in the totalitarian country. Swedish officials met with senior North Korean officials on Wednesday and “raised the issue of Alek's disappearance on Australia's behalf.”

“I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the Swedish authorities for their invaluable assistance,” Morrison said.

Sigley ran a tour company in North Korea for foreign students and was studying for a master's degree in Korean literature. The reason for Sigley's detainment by North Korean officials is unknown




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