UPDATE: This article originally stated that Alek Sigley had been arrested by North Korean authorities. His family has since announced that although he has not been heard from since Tuesday, they have not received confirmation of his arrest.
This article originally appeared on VICE AU
An Australian student has gone missing in North Korea. Alek Sigley, 29, was living in the nation's capital of Pyongyang and studying at Kim Il Sung University, as well as running a tour company that organises trips for foreign students. A spokesperson for Alek's family revealed that he has been out of contact since Tuesday, according to The Guardian. Despite media reports, they have not received any confirmation of his arrest by North Korean authorities.
This morning, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) confirmed that it is “providing consular assistance... to the family of an Australian man who has been reported as being detained in North Korea.” DFAT added that “the department is urgently seeking clarification,” but would not provide further comment in respect of the department’s privacy obligations.
Alek has previously studied North Korean propaganda at the Australian National University’s college of Asia and the Pacific, graduating in July 2018. His tour company, Tongil Tours, specialises in educational tourism to North Korea. Last year VICE Australia published an article featuring an interview with Alek about his experience as a guide with the company.
"You see the image in the media when it comes to North Korea and it's snarling, glaring people in military uniforms and stuff like that,” he said at the time. “But when you go there... it's different.”
Australia does not have formal diplomatic ties with North Korea, meaning consular assistance must be provided by the Swedish embassy on a limited basis. A spokeswoman for the Swedish government said Sweden was “aware of the matter and is dealing with it within the framework of our bilateral agreement with Australia”, according to The Australian.