Australian student in North Korea reported missing after family loses contact with him for 2 days

Posted at 11:39 PM, Jun 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-27 16:03:58-04

An Australian student studying in North Korea has been reported missing, after his family said they had not heard from him in two days.

In a statement seen by CNN, a spokesperson for the family of Alek Sigley, 29, said he had “not been in digital contact” with friends and family since Tuesday morning Australian time, which was “unusual for him.”

While North Korea’s communication infrastructure has modernized in recent years, it still lags much of the world in reliability.

The family spokesperson, who asked not to be named, added that it was not confirmed whether Sigley has been detained.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Wednesday it was providing consular services “to the family of an Australian man who has been reported as being detained in North Korea,” but did not name Sigley citing privacy concerns.

Sigley is studying Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University, North Korea’s most prestigious institution of higher learning. He also founded a tour group called Tongil Tours, according to his Twitter page.

He has written several pieces about his experience for the North Korean specialty website NK Newsand, earlier this year, for The Guardian, in an essay titled “I’m the only Australian living in North Korea. Let me tell you about it.”

His Twitter account is popular among North Korea watchers, as Sigley is one of few people who regularly tweets from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.

North Korea’s domestic internet is not connected to the outside world.

Sigley’s last tweet was sent Monday, in Korean and English, showing new signage above the Ryugyong Hotel — the infamous uncompleted North Korean skyscraper whichsome have dubbed one of the world’s ugliest buildings.

Sigley first visited North Korea in 2012, his family said in the statement. He is fluent in Korean and Mandarin.