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Australian missing in North Korea may have been targeted for ‘cult figure’ status

An Australian man believed to have been detained in North Korea may have been targeted due to his high-profile Twitter account.

29-year-old Alek Sigley is studying Korean Literature at Kim Il Sung University, and also runs a tour company for foreign students.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is desperately seeking confirmation on whether he’s been detained after reports surfaced that he was arrested in Pyongyang.

Mr Sigley runs a Twitter account that documents his experience of everyday life in North Korea.

Senior Fellow at the Lowy Institute Richard McGregor tells Chris Smith it’s odd for a foreigner who lives in North Korea to be detained, and that it could have something to do with his online presence.

“The thing about Alek is he’s a cult figure amongst people who watch North Korea, because of his Twitter feed.

“He just talks about all manner of ordinary things in North Korean life that we didn’t know or we don’t have much exposure to.

“Somebody in the security services might think the sort of things he’s doing are a national security issue.”

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Executive Producer of AM Agenda on Sky News Trudy McIntosh met Alek Sigley when he took her on a tour of North Korea in 2013.

She tells Ben Fordham she was surprised to hear the news that he may be detained there.

“I found him to be a lovely person and nothing but passionate for Korean culture.

“He really enjoyed, it seemed, interacting with the local people.

“He personally didn’t seem very scared.”

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