Australian student released from North Korea

Credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on July 4, 2019 - Duration: 02:06s

Australian student released from North Korea

An Australian student who was detained in North Korea has been released and safely left the country, traveling to China where he told reporters on Thursday he was well.

Grace Lee reports.

Australian student released from North Korea

This is Alek Sigley arriving in Beijing's airport right after being released from North Korea.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON SAYING: "Early this morning we were advised that the DPRK had released Alek from detention and he has now safely left the country.

And I can confirm he has arrived safely.

" Australia's Prime Minister on Thursday (July 4) confirmed that Sigley, who had been studying in Pyongyang, has been found safe - after being reported missing since last week.

Sigley told reporters in Beijing that he was quote "very good" and his family says he's already been in touch.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) AUSTRALIAN STUDENT ALEK SIGLEY'S FATHER, GARY SIGLEY, SAYING: "He tried to ring me a few minutes ago, I was shopping, and so I understand now he is talking to his wife.

So I'm sure I'll speak to him sometime today when I get a chance.

But I'm just so happy to know that he is safe and sound." The 29 year old's disappearance had sparked an aggressive search by the Australian government.

But with no diplomatic presence in North Korea, Australia has had to rely on third countries like Sweden for help.

A Swedish special envoy was sent to North Korea on Monday (July 1), a trip that was likely linked to Sigley's release.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison personally thanked Sweden on Thursday.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON SAYING: "This outcome demonstrates the value of discreet, behind-the-scenes work of officials in resolving complex and sensitive consular cases in close partnership with other governments." It's still not clear why Sigley had been detained.

He had been studying for a postgraduate degree at Kim Il Sung University, one of only a handful of Western students there.

North Korea's treatment of foreigners has been a contentious issue for a long time especially with cases like Otto Warmbier, the 17 year-old U.S. Citizen who was detained in the North and returned to the U.S. in a coma.

He died shortly after arriving on home soil in 2017.

Sigley's had a very different outcome though.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) AUSTRALIAN STUDENT ALEK SIGLEY'S FATHER, GARY SIGLEY, SAYING: "I also know that actually he has been in constant good spirits and he's been well the whole time as well." He's declined to comment about what happened to him in Pyongyang.

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