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Canberra checking on Australian reportedly detained in NK

The Australian government said it is working with the Swedish government to confirm reports that an Australian man has been detained in North Korea.

The family of Alek Sigley, a 29-year-old student who has lived in North Korea for the past year and is pursuing a master’s degree in Korean literature at Kim Il-sung University, said they had not heard from him since Tuesday.


Citing unnamed sources, South Korean and Australian media reported that Sigley had been arrested by North Korean authorities and was under interrogation.

Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said his government was working through Sweden, which has an embassy in Pyongyang, to look into Sigley’s whereabouts.

“We work through the Swedish government in North Korea and all of these steps are underway,” Cormann told reporters Thursday in Osaka, where he had traveled to attend the G-20 summit, according to Voice of America.

Australia does not have an embassy in North Korea, and has limited diplomatic access through the Swedish Embassy.

A spokesperson for the Swedish Foreign Ministry said the ministry “is aware of the matter, and is dealing with it within the framework of our bilateral agreement with Australia.”

Sigley has run Tongil Tours, a small travel agency that specializes in educational and cultural exchanges in North Korea for foreign tourists, since 2013.

Australian broadcaster ABC said Sigley is believed to be the only Australian living in North Korea.

Sigley has frequently shared photos he took in North Korea through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

His last social media post was made Monday, when he shared photos of the Ryugyong Hotel and speculated on whether it would open soon.

As of Friday, Sigley’s Twitter account was still online, but his Facebook and Instagram accounts have been deleted.

By Kim So-hyun (