An Australian student has been released after a week in detention in North Korea and is “safe and well”, Australia’s prime minister has said.
Swedish diplomats had raised the case of Alek Sigley, 29, with North Korean authorities in Pyongyang where Australia does not have an embassy.
“I’m pleased to announce that Mr Alex Sigley has been today released from detention in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” Scott Morrison told Parliament to cheers from politicians.
Mr Sigley looked relaxed when he arrived at Beijing airport to head to the Australian embassy there. He did not respond to reporters’ questions about what had happened to him in Pyongyang.
“I’m OK, I’m OK, I’m good. I’m very good,” he said.
His father Gary Sigley said his son would soon be reunited with his Japanese wife Yuka Morinaga in Tokyo.
“He’s fine. He’s in very good spirits. He’s been treated well,” the father said in his hometown of Perth.
“Alex is safe and well. Swedish authorities advised the Australian government that they met with senior officials from the DPRK yesterday and raised the issue of Alex’s disappearance on Australia’s behalf,” Mr Morrison added, using the official name for North Korea.
Mr Morrison said that North Korean authorities released Mr Sigley early on Thursday, “and he has now safely left the country and I can confirm he has arrived safely”.
Mr Morrison thanked Swedish authorities for “their invaluable assistance in securing Alek’s prompt release”.
“This outcome demonstrates the value of discrete behind-the-scenes work of officials in resolving complex and sensitive consular cases in close partnership with other governments,” he added.
“I’m sure we all could not be more pleased that we not only know where Alek is, that we know he is safe.”
The Pyongyang university student lost contact with family and friends in Japan and Australia on Tuesday last week.
He had been active on social media about his experiences in North Korea and had boasted about the extraordinary freedom he had been allowed as one of the few foreign students living in Pyongyang.
His friend and fellow student of North Korea Bronwyn Dalton said: “He’s a fine, young, emerging Asian scholar, he is very applied to his studies. I really doubted whether he did actually anything wrong by the regime.”
Mr Morrison’s announcement was the first confirmation that he had been detained.