Fears grow for Australian student Alek Sigley, 29, arrested in North Korea

An Australian student has reportedly been detained in North Korea.
An Australian student has reportedly been detained in North Korea. Photo credit: AAP/Facebook

An Australian student has reportedly been arrested at a North Korean university.

Alek Sigley, 29, is a postgraduate student at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang. His name was released by South Korean media overnight in reports claiming the student has been taken into custody by North Korean authorities. 

It is not yet known why Sigley is in custody.

Sigley wrote an article for The Guardian just months ago, discussing his ability to move freely around the capital and his love of the restaurants. 

A February article for Public Radio International, "Twitter and Cocoa Pops: The surprising life of a student in North Korea", featured Sigley.

Sigley, who studied Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University, also runs a company, Tongil Tours, aimed at bringing foreign students to North Korea. A prolific blogger, Sigley has documented Pyongyang's cuisine, dining and the beauty of the language.

A number of media organisations such as Sky News and The Guardian have profiled the Perth student and his experiences in the clandestine country.

Fears are growing for the missing student following the reports of his detainment. Australian officials said on Thursday they are "urgently seeking clarification".

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Australian officials have reportedly made contact with Sigley's family.

On TripAdvisor, Tongil Tars has a 5-star rating, with recent reviews describing it as an "extraordinary", "highly educational" and "treasured" experienced.

An Executive Producer for Sky News Australia, Trudy McIntosh, went on one of Sigley's tours in 2013, news.co.au reports. 

"I never heard him say anything inappropriate. It's alarming to see this happen to him," she told the media channel.

The student's observations of life in North Korea are largely positive, news.com.au reports.

Otto Warmbier, a student from the University of Virginia, was imprisoned in North Korea after being accused of removing a propaganda poster in 2016. He arrived back to the US in June 2017, but died days later from severe brain damage inflicted while in detention. He was 22.


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