Australian student expelled from North Korea denies spying

ACCUSED OF SPYING. Alek Sigley, an Australian student who was detained in North Korea, heads for his departure at the Beijing International airport on July 4, 2019.  Photo by Nicolas Asfouri/AFP

ACCUSED OF SPYING. Alek Sigley, an Australian student who was detained in North Korea, heads for his departure at the Beijing International airport on July 4, 2019.

Photo by Nicolas Asfouri/AFP

SEOUL, South Korea – An Australian student who was expelled from North Korea denied on Tuesday, July 9, that he was spying on the authoritarian state while he lived there.

Alek Sigley, 29, was released last week after being detained for several days, with Pyongyang later accusing him of promoting propaganda against the country online.

"The allegation that I am a spy is (pretty obviously) false," he wrote on Twitter, adding that he was "well both mentally and physically."

"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," he wrote.

2. 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. Tongil Tours will be cancelling all its tours until further notice. — Alek Sigley (@AlekSigley) July 9, 2019

 

The tweets were the first comments addressing the incident from Sigley, who had been one of just a handful of Westerners living and studying in North Korea.

"I may never again walk the streets of Pyongyang, a city that holds a very special place in my heart," he added.

"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."

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. — Alek Sigley (@AlekSigley) July 9, 2019

 

His detention, which prompted deep concern about his fate, came just days before a G20 summit and a landmark meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Sigley, who speaks fluent Korean, organized tours to North Korea and ran a number of social media sites which posted a stream of apolitical content about life in one of the world's most secretive nations.

He also wrote columns for specialist website NK News, which North Korean state media called an anti-regime news outlet in a report on Saturday, July 6.

In the report it also said the country had deported Sigley for spying.

NK News has released a statement denying the accusations, which the student said he stood by.

The case was complicated by Australia's lack of diplomatic representation in North Korea, with the Swedish envoy helping to negotiate his release. – Rappler.com