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Australian student detained in North Korea released

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Australian student Alek Sigley is flanked by two minders at Haneda International airport in Tokyo

A 29-year-old Australian student detained in North Korea arrived in Tokyo on Thursday, hours after surfacing in Beijing where he said he felt “great” after being released.

Alek 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.

But on Thursday afternoon, he emerged suddenly in Beijing.

A Sigley family photo of missing Australian student Alek Sigley, one of only a handful of Western students studying Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang
A Sigley family photo of the Australian student Alek Sigley, one of only a handful of Western students studying Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang

“I’m ok, I’m ok, yeah, yeah, I’m good. I’m very good,” he said upon arriving at Beijing’s international airport. Asked how he felt, he responded: “Great.”

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He went to the Australian embassy and was later seen again at the airport, where he smiled again and waved at reporters.

Hours later he flew to Japan, where his wife lives. He landed shortly after 10:00 pm (1300 GMT), smiling broadly, but declined to answer media questions as he arrived at Haneda airport.

Earlier, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told lawmakers that Sigley had “been released from detention in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” and was “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”.

The father admitted he had missed a call from his son because he had been busy “shopping”, but hoped to give him a “big hug and kiss” soon.

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