Freed Aussie student ‘very good’

 

Australian student Alek Sigley is "safe and well" after being released from detention in North Korea.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed North Korean authorities had released the 29-year-old student today.

Arriving in Beijing en route to Tokyo, Mr Sigley told reporters he was "okay" and "very good".

He did not answer when asked what had happened in Pyongyang.

Mr Sigley is now safe at the Australian Embassy in Beijing.

News Corp understands he will fly to Tokyo later today to be reunited with his wife. The flight from Beijing takes a little over three hours.

Mr Morrison told parliament at 3.30pm that Mr Sigley was now on "home soil" at the embassy.

"We were advised that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have released him from detention and he has safely left the county," he told parliament this afternoon.

Mr Morrison extended his deepest gratitude to Swedish diplomats, who were "invaluable in securing Alek's prompt release".

"I'm sure we could not be more pleased that we not only know where Alek is, but that he is safe," the Prime Minister said.

"(This) demonstrates the value of discreet, behind-the-scenes work by officials in solving sensitive consular cases in close partnership with other governments," he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne also thanked Swedish authorities for their assistance and praised the "careful, behind-the-scenes work" of diplomatic officials.

She also said Mr Sigley's family had been advised of the news.

"I won't be making further comment out of respect for Alek's privacy and his family but I can say his father has been advised," Senator Payne said.

"He is enormously relieved and grateful and has asked me to convey, the family has asked that we convey the thanks to everyone who has expressed support to them for the last few days."

Alek Sigley with wife Yuka Alek on their wedding day in Pyongyang.
Alek Sigley with wife Yuka Alek on their wedding day in Pyongyang.


Diplomats began a desperate search for Mr Sigley last week after reports emerged that he had been arrested at his university in Pyongyang.

He was last heard from on June 25 and had since fallen silent on social media.

Fears for his safety were compounded by the fate of US college student Otto Warmbier, who died in 2017 just days after being released from detention in North Korea.

An image from Alek Sigley’s Twitter account. Picture: Twitter / Alek Sigley
An image from Alek Sigley’s Twitter account. Picture: Twitter / Alek Sigley


Sweden, which has an embassy in North Korea, was able to appeal to authorities in Pyongyang on Australia's behalf during a meeting on Wednesday.

Mr Sigley was born in Perth and studied in Canberra at the Australian National University.

He had been studying a masters in Korean literature in Pyongyang.