Beijing: Twenty nine-year-old Australian student Alek Sigley detained in North Korea surfaced Thursday in Beijing and said he felt ‘great’ after being released.
Sigley – one of a handful of Westerners living and studying in North Korea – disappeared without a trace around June 23, prompting a week of deep concern and frantic speculation about his fate.
For days Sigley’s family received no word about his whereabouts or wellbeing, stoking fears he may have been the latest in a long line of foreigners to become entangled in North Korea’s police state.
“I’m okay, I’m okay, yeah, yeah, I’m good. I’m very good,” Sigley said at Beijing’s international airport. Asked how he felt, he responded: “Great.”
Sigley went to the Australian embassy and was later seen again at the airport, where he smiled again and waved at reporters. He was expected to travel to Japan, where his wife still lives.
Earlier, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told lawmakers that Sigley had ‘been released from detention in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’ and that ‘he is safe and well’.
Sigley’s father Gary, a professor of Chinese and Asian studies, told media in Australia that the family was ‘extremely pleased he is safe and sound’.
Sigley’s detention came just days before a G20 summit and a landmark meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump was intimately involved in the case of University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, who was imprisoned during a tour of the authoritarian state in 2016.
Doctors said Warmbier suffered severe brain damage while in detention, fell into a coma and died days after arriving back in the United States, aged 22.
Sigley was much more familiar with the country and spoke fluent Korean. He ran tours to North Korea and a number of social media sites, which usually had a stream of apolitical content about life in one of the world’s most secretive nations. His blog posts focused on everyday Pyongyang – everything from the city’s dining scene to North Korean app reviews.