TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs is currently seeking confirmation on the whereabouts and well-being of 29-year-old citizen Alek Sigley, who studies literature and runs a tour company in Pyongyang, North Korea, ABC News reported.
Alek Sigley is pursuing a master’s degree in Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University and operates the tour company Tongil Tours, which organizes educational trips for international student visitors in North Korea. His family has reported him missing because he has unusually not been in digital contact since Tuesday (June 25).
The department is providing consular assistance to Sigley’s family, but it has so far been unable to confirm whether Sigley has been arrested or not. "Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment," it said.
Australia does not have diplomatic ties with North Korea, but it is reaching out to North Korean officials via its embassy in South Korea. It is also working with the Swedish government to provide consular assistance.
New signage above the main entrance to the Ryugyong Hotel bearing its name and logo. A sign that it will soon be open for business?— Alek Sigley (@AlekSigley) 2019年6月24日
류경호텔 정문에 걸려있는 새 간판. 간판은 류경호텔의 이름과 상표를 표시하고 있다. 개업날이 다가오고 있는가? pic.twitter.com/bwdDot50ya
Sigley posts regularly about North Korea on his Twitter, which has not been updated since Monday (June 24). He also wrote about his living experience and nearly unprecedented access to Pyongyang as a student visa holder in an article published by The Guardian.
“I’m free to wander around the city without anyone accompanying me,” he claimed in the article. “Interaction with locals can be limited at times, but I can shop and dine almost anywhere I want.”
Sigley’s father, Gary Sigley, who is a professor of China studies, urged patience while waiting for the Australian government to obtain more information. “But … from a parent's perspective, it's not good news,” he added.
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison will meet with US President Donald Trump tonight (June 27) before the G20 summit. However, it is not sure whether Morrison would raise Sigley’s case.
Foreign visitors have been subject to arbitrary arrest, long-term detention, and execution in North Korea. Most governments, including Australia and Taiwan, advise their citizens not to travel to the country unless necessary.