Australian student arrested in North Korea, reports say

North Korean flags fly from buildings in Kim Il Sung Square in PyongyangImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The Australian man had been living and studying in Pyongyang, reports said

Australia says it is urgently seeking clarification of reports an Australian man has been detained in North Korea.

Australian and South Korea media have identified him as Alek Sigley, a 29-year-old student living in Pyongyang.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not identified the man due to its privacy obligations.

It said it was providing consular assistance to “the family of an Australian man who has been reported as being detained in North Korea”.

“The department is urgently seeking clarification,” it added in its statement on Thursday.

It is not known why the man may have been detained.

Mr Sigley is pursuing a masters degree in Korean literature at Kim Il-sung University in the North Korean capital. He also runs tours for foreigners visiting the country.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionFour defectors talk about what life is like in North Korea

He describes himself as “the only Australian living in North Korea” in a firsthand account about his life, published by The Guardian in March.

“As a long-term foreign resident on a student visa, I have nearly unprecedented access to Pyongyang,” he wrote.

“I’m free to wander around the city, without anyone accompanying me.”

His friends reported him missing earlier this week, the Australian Broadcasting Corp said.

Australia does not have an embassy in North Korea, and has limited diplomatic access through the Swedish embassy.