Alek Sigley says he will not be doing interviews about detention, asks for privacy


Alek Sigley has said he will not be doing any media interviews following his release after being detained in North Korea.

Australian student Alek Sigley, who has been released after being detained in North Korea, has released a statement thanking diplomats for their intervention but says he has no plans to discuss the matter publicly. 

"He asks that media respect his privacy and that of his family as they return to normal life," the statement said, adding that he will not be taking part in any news conference or media interviews. 

It then quoted him directly, speaking from Tokyo where he is reunited with his wife, Yuka.

"I just want everyone to know I am OK, and to thank them for their concern for my wellbeing and their support for my family over the past week. I’m very happy to be back with my wife, Yuka, and to have spoken with my family in Perth (Australia) to reassure them I’m well."

He thanked Swedish Special Envoy to North Korea, Kent Rolf Magnus Harstedt, who worked within the nation on his behalf, as well as the Australian Government and the Department of Foreign Affairs.  

Alek Sigley arriving in China after being released by North Korea.
Australian student Alek Sigley has been freed by North Korea after he was detained about a week ago.

It comes as Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says Mr Sigley's recent detention "could have ended very differently".

Mr Dutton said university student and tour guide Alek Sigley is very fortunate to be free after he was released by the communist state more than a week after he was reported missing.

Mr Dutton advised Mr Sigley to rethink ever returning to Pyongyang.

Australian student Alek Sigley arrives at the airport in Beijing
Australian student Alek Sigley arrives at the airport in Beijing after his detention in North Korea

The detention of Australian man Alek Sigley in North Korea should serve as a warning to all Australians not to go there, the federal government says.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says the university student and tour guide is lucky to be free, and has suggested Mr Sigley never return to the communist state.

"It could have ended up very differently," Mr Dutton told the Nine Network after negotiations led by Sweden ensured the scholar was released on Thursday.

The 29-year-old, who lived, studied and worked in North Korea, is now in Tokyo with his Japanese wife but has refused to say what happened to him in the week and half he was missing in Pyongyang.

"I'm ok, I'm ok, I'm very good," Mr Sigley told waiting journalists after flying into Tokyo.

His Perth-based father Gary Sigley says his son was treated well. Michelle Joyce, his partner in a company that takes Westerners on tours of North Korea, says Australians shouldn't be deterred from travelling there.

But Mr Dutton has a different view, saying the government's official travel advice for North Korea is crystal clear: reconsider going or face high-level risks such as arbitrary arrest and long-term detention.

"We have advisories out to that effect warning people. It needs to be an application of common sense here," he said.

"I don't think he will put himself back into that situation."

Alek Sigley
Alek Sigley feared to be detained in North Korea

Ms Joyce founded Tongil Tours with Mr Sigley in 2013, offering Westerners guided, educational tours of the reclusive state. She says she was always 90 per cent sure he would be okay.

"I know that Alek is not the type of person who would stir trouble in North Korea ... I'm just glad that he's fine," she told the ABC on Friday.

"I don't think that the issue was anything completely nefarious ... so I don't think that this should really deter anybody too much."

Sweden has a long-standing diplomatic relationship with North Korea.

After Mr Sigley's normally active social media channels went silent and he stopped contacting family on Tueday last week, Sweden stepped in to help at the request of Australia which does not have an embassy in Pyongyang.

Prime Mininister Scott Morrison has expressed deep gratitude for Sweden's help, but has not explained why the Australian was detained.

"It is in nobody's interests in these quite sensitive consular cases, to go beyond simply saying, I'm so pleased that he is safe," Mr Morrison said.

Mr Sigley is the first known foreigner to be arrested there since American student Otto Warmbier, who was sentenced to 15 years hard labour for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster in 2015.

Mr Warmbier was repatriated to the US in a coma a year-and-a-half later and died six days after his return. North Korea has denied torturing the American.

One of Mr Sigley's friends, Australian National University expert on North Korea Leonid Petrov, last week speculated his friend might have been under an enforced silence before US President Donald Trump's meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

The two leaders met briefly in the demilitarised zone that separates North and South Korea last weekend.

He also expressed a view that Mr Sigley's silence was not necessarily sinister.

"Foreigners, when they have a high profile in North Korea, may be screened and also potentially they may be asked not be in contact with the rest of the world when something significant is happening in Korea," he said at the time.

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