An Australian student who was detained in North Korea was freed and safely left the country yesterday, arriving in Tokyo via Beijing later the same day after Swedish officials helped broker his release.
Alek Sigley, 29, who was studying in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, had been missing since June 25.
“I’m OK. I’m good, I’m very good,” Sigley told reporters after arriving at Beijing airport.
He declined to comment about what happened to him in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang where he had been living.
He made a peace sign as he walked through the airport.
Hours later he landed in Tokyo, walking past a throng of reporters waiting at the airport without answering their questions.
Sigley is married to a Japanese woman, Yuka Morinaga.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison interrupted parliament earlier yesterday to confirm that Sigley had been freed.
Morrison later said in a statement that Swedish authorities had helped secure the student’s release.
“This outcome demonstrates the value of the discreet, behind the scenes work of officials in resolving complex and sensitive consular cases, in close partnership with other governments,” Morrison said in the statement.
He did not say why Sigley had been detained.
Australia has no diplomatic presence in North Korea and relies on other countries such as Sweden to act on its behalf.
In a statement to Reuters, the Swedish foreign ministry said it welcomed the release.
“Sweden has acted in accordance with the agreement on providing consular services that exists with Australia and in close co-operation with Australian authorities,” it added.
Sigley’s father, a professor of Asian studies in the western Australian city of Perth, told reporters that his son would soon be reunited with his wife.
“We are extremely pleased that Alek is safe and sound,” Gary Sigley said.
Sigley was an active social media user in North Korea and regularly posted photos and blog posts about subjects such as food and fashion.
Alarm was first raised that he was missing when he disappeared from his social media accounts.
He was also a regular contributor to international media about life in North Korea, which he was invariably enthusiastic about.
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