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Fears mount for 29-year-old Australian student reportedly detained in North Korea

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Alek Sigley, the 29-year old Australian who is feared detained in North Korea
Alek Sigley, the 29-year old Australian who is feared detained in North Korea -
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Reuters via PRK - Davies, Pascale
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Australia's government says it is "urgently seeking" information on reports that an Australian man is being detained in North Korea.

The family of Alek Sigley, a 29-year-old student living in Pyongyang said he had not been in touch with him for several days.

A spokeswoman said in an emailed statement on Thursday: “He has not been in digital contact with friends or family since Tuesday morning Australian time, which is unusual for him.”

The family said it had received no indication he had been detained in North Korea. Sigley was reported missing by friends, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Australia’s foreign affairs department said it has received a report that a citizen had been detained in North Korea.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance ... to the family of an Australian man who has been reported as being detained in North Korea,” a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement.

The treatment of foreign citizens in North Korea has been in the spotlight since the death of US student Otto Warmbier in 2017 after he was detained in North Korea for 17 months.

Warmbier was detained in a North Korean prison in 2016 and sentenced to 15 years of forced labour for trying to steal a propaganda poster in his hotel. He was returned to America in a coma and died soon after.

Australia does not have a diplomatic presence in North Korea.

Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told Bloomberg Television that limited contact with North Korea meant securing details about the missing man’s whereabouts was difficult.

“Our embassy in South Korea has reached out to relevant officials in North Korea,” Cormann said.

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