Mystery over Facebook page of missing Aussie

SYDNEY • The Facebook page of an Australian man who went missing in North Korea reappeared and then disappeared again, hours before Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Canberra is still trying to find out what has happened to him.

Mr Alek Sigley, one of only a handful of Western students in the secretive country, has been missing for several days. His family had taken down his social media accounts earlier to prevent unnecessary speculation online.

Mr Sigley's Facebook page reappeared overnight on Saturday, but it is not known who reinstated it or why. It had disappeared again by 2pm Sydney time on Saturday.

His Twitter account is still online and members of the public have posted messages of support there.

The missing man's latest posts on his Twitter and Facebook profiles are from last Monday, and his family has not heard from him since last Tuesday.

Speaking at the Group of 20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, Mr Morrison said he had spoken to Mr Sigley's family and said that Australia is still trying to find out what has happened to him.

"I will just be measured in what I say, because that is all about using the best opportunities we have right now to inform ourselves about where Alek is, what his safety is and where he is being held, in what conditions," he told reporters last Saturday evening.

The family of Mr Alek Sigley had taken down his Facebook profile earlier, but the page reappeared on Saturday before going offline again.
The family of Mr Alek Sigley had taken down his Facebook profile earlier, but the page reappeared on Saturday before going offline again.

Mr Morrison said numerous world leaders had offered help to find Mr Sigley and bring him home.

When asked if United States President Donald Trump's visit to the Korean demilitarised zone, or DMZ, presented an opportunity for the Americans to make representations, Mr Morrison said he would not allow the issue to be taken up with other agendas.

"We're going to work with everybody to secure Alek's safety and the best way we can do that is doing it quietly, effectively, working with our partners," he said.

"This is not allowing this to be taken up into other agendas, it's not about that. It's simply, for me, about Alek's safety."

The 29-year-old Australian moved to North Korea to pursue a master's degree in Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang. He also ran a small tour company specialising in educational trips to the country.

Mr Sigley has been an unusually active social media user for someone living in North Korea, updating his accounts with photos and blog posts about benign subjects such as food and fashion.

North Korea's treatment of foreign citizens has long been a contentious issue. American student Otto Warmbier died in 2017, less than a week after being flown home in a coma from North Korea. The 22-year-old had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labour after stealing a propaganda poster during a visit to Pyongyang.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2019, with the headline 'Mystery over Facebook page of missing Aussie'. Print Edition | Subscribe