Australian student Alex Sigley has reportedly been arrested in North Korea. Picture: Twitter
Australian student Alex Sigley has reportedly been arrested in North Korea. Picture: Twitter

‘Only Aussie in North Korea’ arrested

An Australian student has reportedly been arrested at a university in North Korea, a month after writing of being the only Aussie in the country.

Alek Sigley, 29, who has been studying at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, was named in South Korean media overnight as having been taken into custody by North Korean officials.

It is not known why he was arrested but just three months ago, Sigley wrote an article for The Guardian about life in the notoriously secretive country, saying he was able to travel freely in the capital without a chaperone.

In February he was featured in an article for Public Radio International titled Twitter and Cocoa Pops: The surprising life of a student in North Korea".

Australia on Thursday said it was "urgently seeking clarification" on the fate of a citizen feared detained in North Korea.

The department of foreign affairs said it was in contact with the family of a man named by Korean-language media as Alek Sigley.

Officials said they were in contact with the family of the man "who has been reported as being detained in North Korea".

There is no Australian ambassador in North Korea so Mr Sigley's case is being dealt with by the British embassy, South Korean media reported..

Australian university student Alek Sigley has reportedly been arrested in North Korea. Picture: Twitter
Australian university student Alek Sigley has reportedly been arrested in North Korea. Picture: Twitter

In addition to studying at Kim Il Sung University - where Kim Jong-un also studied - Mr Sigley also runs a tour company called Tongil tours that organises trips into North Korea for foreign students.

Mr Sigley is one of only a handful of Western students at Kim Il Sung University, where he studied Korean literature.

He also runs a company specialising in tours of North Korea and has written articles about Pyongyang's dining scene and other issues for NK News.

His last social media posts came three days ago.

"The Department is urgently seeking clarification," a statement from Canberra read. "Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment." Australia has no diplomatic mission of its own in Pyongyang and is represented in North Korea by the Swedish Embassy.

Canberra advises against non-essential travel to North Korea -- where several foreigners have been detained.

Consular advice recommends Australians "stay as short a time as possible, eliminate unnecessary activities, and review your security arrangements." In 2016, Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, was imprisoned during a tour of the authoritarian state after being accused of taking down a propaganda poster.

Doctors said he suffered severe brain damage while in detention, fell into a coma and died days after arriving back in the United States in June 2017. He was 22.


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