CANBERRA, Jun 27, 2019, SMH. Consular officials are providing assistance to the family of an Australian man reportedly detained in North Korea, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said it is providing consular assistance “to the family of an Australian man who has been reported as being detained in North Korea”. It is “urgently seeking clarification” after the man was reportedly arrested in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
“Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment,” a DFAT spokesperson said.
Media reports have identified the man as 29-year-old Alek Sigley, who is studying Korean Literature at Kim Il Sung University and also runs a tour company that organises trips for foreign students.
Mr Sigley, from Perth, maintains a Twitter account in which he documents his life in North Korea.
Last week he posted pictures of himself in North Korean soccer gear.
He also posted pictures of North Korean food.
“As a long-term foreign resident on a student visa, I have nearly unprecedented access to Pyongyang,” he wrote.
“I’m free to wander around the city, without anyone accompanying me. Interaction with locals can be limited at times, but I can shop and dine almost anywhere I want.”
In a blog named From Perth to Pyongyang, Sigley said his father was an Australian “Anglo-Aussie sinologist” and his mother was Chinese – she spent a “tumultuous youth during the Cultural Revolution”, he wrote.
According to the blog, Sigley married a Japanese woman named Yuka in North Korea last year.
“A Chinese-Australian man and a Japanese woman have their wedding in North Korea. My existence alone causes much confusion and I apologise if it has caused you any.”
Sigley also discussed his travels in North Korea in a 2016 article for the Huffington Post called: “I was the first Australian to study in North Korea”.
He described North Koreans as “among the loveliest people I have ever met”.
“We all know that they live in a society with a very different political system and social norms, aspects of which we as liberal Westerners find difficult to accept,” he wrote.
After befriending his Korean teacher and other “kind, earnest and fun-loving North Koreans”, Sigley wrote: “I found myself beginning to question the logic that our distaste for North Korea’s social system should mean that we refuse all engagement with its people who have played no part in shaping the country as it is.”
“As a result, we are left with a set of stereotypes of North Korean people as limited and abstract as the ones they hold towards us – brainwashed, robotic, miserable.”
“In our inability to put people before politics we have been unable to grasp that North Koreans too are ultimately ordinary people.”
AAP, Nine, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald