Australia

Sigley rejects North Korea spy accusation

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Alek Sigley, the Australian student who was detained in North Korea for a week, says the regime's accusation that he was a spy is "(pretty obviously) false".

Alek Sigley, the Australian student who was detained by North Korea for a little over a week before being released, has rejected the regime's accusation that he was a spy.

Mr Sigley, 29, returned to social media late on Wednesday, where he released a brief statement after assuring everyone he was well, mentally and physically.

Mr Sigley was a student at a Pyongyang university and also ran a tour company that took foreigners on guided tours in North Korea. He was detained on June 25 and dropped off social media and out of contact with his family and friends.

He was released last Thursday after about nine days through the efforts of Swedish diplomats and left for Tokyo where he was reunited with his wife.

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, frequently challenging negative outside perceptions about North Korea.

He also wrote op-eds and 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.

North Korea accused Mr Sigley of spreading anti-Pyongyang propaganda and engaging in espionage by providing photos and other materials to news outlets with critical views toward the North.

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

"He honestly admitted his spying acts of systematically collecting and offering data about the domestic situation of the DPRK and repeatedly asked for pardon, apologizing for encroachment upon the sovereignty of the DPRK," the agency said.

"The allegation that I am a spy is (pretty obviously) false. The only material I gave to NK News was what was published publicly on the blog, and the same goes for other media outlets," Mr Sigley said in his statement on Wednesday.

"The whole situation makes me very sad," Mr Sigley wrote. "I will now be unable to receive my master's degree from Kim Il Sung University after completing more than half the course and achieving good results.

"I am still very interested in North Korea and want to continue academic research and other work related to the country. But I currently have no plans to visit the country again, at least in the short term."

His company Tongli Tours will be cancelling all its tours until further notice, he added.

"I may never again walk the streets of Pyongyang, a city that holds a very special place in my heart. I may never again see my teachers and my partners in the travel industry, whom I've come to consider close friends. But that's life."

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