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Facebook page of Australian man missing in North Korea mysteriously reappears

The Facebook page of an Australian student in North Korea briefly reappeared on Saturday after his family shut it down.  

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Alek Sigley hasn’t been heard or seen since Tuesday morning and is believed to be detained in North Korea.

His family had taken down his personal social media accounts to stop people from speculating what had happened to him.

The account appeared briefly on Saturday, according to the

But on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday the page had disappeared again. 

His Twitter page and his website have remained online. Mr Sigley’s last social media posts were on June 24.      

On Friday, Australian National University North Korea expert Leonard Petrov said he believed Mr Sigley was silenced ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to the demilitarized zone, an expert said on Friday. 

The worrying new theory comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke of his concern for Mr Sigley’s welfare from the G20 summit of central bankers and world leaders in Japan.

‘It is troubling to me and I’m sure his family as well,’ Mr Morrison said from Osaka on Friday.

‘The expression of support and assistance that have come from other nations I’ve met with while I’ve been here is very welcome,’ he said.

 ‘We’ll continue to focus very sharply on that, and seek to clarify what exactly has occurred and then take steps from there.’  

Dr Petrov said the secretive communist state might have viewed Mr Sigley’s regular blogging on life in North Korea as a security risk and deliberately cut him off from means of communication. 

‘I think that North Koreans potentially might have decided to shut down his blog … because the information was coming out of North Korea, which is unprecedented,’ Dr Petrov told the ABC. 

Mr Sigley, who is thought to be the only Australian living in North Korea, moved there in 2018 to study for a master’s degree in Korean literature at Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang.

He also runs a tour business for foreign visitors and blogs frequently. He has a twitter account with 4,000 followers.

On his blog and social media accounts, Mr Sigley has shared non-controversial, non-political information about daily life in the hermit kingdom, that is fascinating to outsiders because it is so closed. 

Dr Petrov, a friend of Mr Sigley, said he did not think Mr Sigley was in immediate danger, because he was a foreign national who had been permitted to study there.

But he remained a potential risk as he was not controlled and censored by the North Korean dictatorship, he said.

Dr Petrov said with U.S. President Donald Trump scheduled to visit the demilitarized zone on Sunday that tensions had been heightened in both South and North Korea leading to intensified security measures. 

Trump is set to arrive in South Korea for a two-day visit on Saturday and will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday, following a summit of G20 leaders in Japan.

‘Normally North Korea is a closed book,’ Dr Petrov said. 

‘Information is protected, journalists are not permitted or very carefully scrutinised.

‘So an international student studying at the university for more than a year and constantly bringing information about the reclusive country could have been seen as a potential distraction factor on the eve of a potential third summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.’ 

Mr Sigley’s last social media post on June 24 was about the Ryugyong Hotel, which remained famously unfinished after construction was halted in 1992 as North Korea entered an economic crisis.

He has been open about sharing his experiences living in North Korea, writing an editorial in The Guardian about his time there.

‘As a long-term foreign resident on a student visa, I have nearly unprecedented access to Pyongyang,’ he wrote.

‘I’m free to wander around the city, without anyone accompanying me. Interaction with locals can be limited at times, but I can shop and dine almost anywhere I want.’

The 29-year-old student has not been in digital contact with friends and family since Tuesday morning Australian time, which is unusual for him. 

His panic-striken wife Yuka Morinaga, 26, of Japan, received her last message from Mr Sigley on Monday evening.

Ms Morinaga, who married Mr Sigley in Pyongyang in May 2018 in front of dozens of family and friends, normally speaks to her husband every day over WhatsApp from Tokyo where she is based.

Ms Morinaga said she hadn’t noticed anything strange in their last conversation as her husband spoke about food and shared photos of a tailor-made suit he made with classmates. 

Australia does not have an official diplomatic presence in North Korea and the British ambassador is handling the case. 

Trade minister Simon Birmingham told ABC Radio National on Friday morning that the Australian government has been unable to confirm Mr Sigley’s whereabouts or what his condition might be. 

‘The fact that we have not been able to confirm that is a demonstration as to how difficult it is in terms of dealing with North Korea,’ he said.

North Korea was an unpredictable destination and circumstances there were beyond Australia’s control, he said. 

Mr Birmingham said Sweden was helping with diplomatic relations in North Korea through their embassy in Pyongyang while Australia was providing consular assistance to Mr Sigley’s family. 

 It was previously reported that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had confirmed an Australian man had reportedly been detained in North Korea.

Daily Mail Australia contacted the Department on Friday to seek confirmation. The Department pointed Daily Mail to Trade Minister Simon Birmingham’s comments that the government was continuing to seek clarification on Mr Sigley’s whereabouts.

Foreigners have not been detained in North Korea since the death of University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier in 2017. 

Mr Warmbier had been travelling in a group to Pyongyang when he was arrested and detained at the airport for taking a propaganda poster as a souvenir from the hotel he was staying in.  

He was taken into custody in Pyongyang then returned to his family later in a vegetative state which the North Korean authorities blamed on food poisoning.

Mr Warmbier died six days after he was returned to the US in June 2017.

 

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