Australian student freed from N Korea breaks silence after release

Tokyo: After reuniting with his wife in Tokyo, Australian student Alek Sigley, who was freed from North Korea with Sweden’s help, thanked all those who facilitated his return.

“I just want everyone to know I am okay, and to thank them for their concern for my wellbeing and their support for my family over the past week,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted Sigley as saying in a statement on Friday.

“I’m very happy to be back with my wife, Yuka, and to have spoken with my family in Perth to reassure them I’m well. I intend now to return to normal life but wanted to first publicly thank everyone who worked to ensure I was safe and well,” he said.

Sigley, believed to be the only Australian in North Korea, married his Japanese wife, Yuka Morinaga, in Pyongyang last year.

The 29-year-old, who studied at Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung University, spent more than a week in detention in North Korea. The reason behind his detainment is not known yet. He was reported missing by his family last month.

The Australian government took Sweden’s help in negotiating his release as the country does not have a diplomatic presence in North Korea. They have now warned Sigley against returning to North Korea.

“I especially want to thank Sweden’s special envoy to North Korea, Kent Rolf Magnus Harstedt, for his efforts on my behalf, along with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne,” Sigley wrote in his statement.

“There are many other people whose names I don’t know who worked hard in the background as well. I’d like to thank those at the Department of Foreign Affairs in particular. My family and friends are always a source of love and support but have been even more so at this time. I also appreciate all the good wishes that myself, my family and my friends have received,” he stated, adding that no media conference or further statement will be given “at this time or later.”

Australia, in an advisory to its citizens, outlines that there is a “high level of risk” in traveling to North Korea, telling them to reconsider their travel plans.