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North Korea accuses released Australian student of spying

A statement claimed Alek Sigley had admitted engaging in espionage.

Alek Sigley was released by North Korea on Thursday (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)
Alek Sigley was released by North Korea on Thursday (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

North Korea has accused an Australian student who was released by the country after being detained for a week of spreading anti-Pyongyang propaganda and engaging in espionage by providing photos and other material to media outlets.

Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, said the North deported Alek Sigley on Thursday after he pleaded for forgiveness over his activities, which the agency said infringed on North Korea’s sovereignty.

Mr Sigley arrived in Tokyo on Thursday after telling reporters he was in “very good” condition, but without saying what happened to him.

He honestly admitted his spying acts of systematically collecting and offering data about the domestic situation of the DPRK and repeatedly asked for pardon Korean Central News Agency

He had been studying at a Pyongyang university and guiding tours in the North Korean capital before disappearing from social media contact with family and friends.

KCNA said Mr Sigley, who was caught “red-handed” by a “relevant institution” of the North on June 25, had abused his status as a student by “combing” through Pyongyang and providing photos and other information to sites such as NK News and other “anti-DPRK” media.

The news agency said the North expelled Mr Sigley out of “humanitarian leniency”.

It said: “He honestly admitted his spying acts of systematically collecting and offering data about the domestic situation of the DPRK and repeatedly asked for pardon, apologising for encroachment upon the sovereignty of the DPRK.”

The North had not previously commented on Mr Sigley.

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Following his release, Mr Sigley said he was ‘good’, but did not discuss his detainment (Emily Wang/AP)

He was released by North Korea following intervention by Swedish diplomats.

During his time in North Korea, Mr Sigley often shared details about his life in Pyongyang through social media and the website of his travel agency, Tongil Tours.

He frequently challenged negative outside perceptions about the North and at times boasted about the extraordinary freedom he had as one of the few foreign students living there.

He also wrote essays that appeared in the Western media, including NK News, although none of them seemed outwardly critical about the North’s government and political system.

PA

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