An Australian student who was released after being held in North Korea had been “spying” in the reclusive country, state media said on Saturday. Alek Sigley, 29, disappeared around two weeks ago prompting deep concern about his fate, but was freed and flew to Japan on Thursday.
Official North Korean news agency KCNA said Mr. Sigley had admitted that “he had been spying by collecting our internal information and sharing with others and repeatedly asked for our forgiveness for infringing on our sovereignty”.
Detained on June 25
It said Mr. Sigley — one of just a handful of Westerners living and studying in North Korea — had been detained on June 25 for promoting propaganda against the country online, including on specialist website NK News, which rejected the accusations.
“Sigley, upon request by anti-DPRK news outlets such as NK News, on numerous occasions transferred information that he gathered while travelling to every corner of Pyongyang using his status as an international student, including photographs and analysis,” it said. “The government of DPRK has exercised humanitarian forbearance and deported him… on July 4.”
Mr. Sigley’s detention came just days before a G20 summit and a landmark meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Mr. Sigley organised tours to North Korea, and ran a number of social media sites, which usually had a stream of apolitical content about life in the country.
Returning to normal life
On Friday, Mr. Sigley said he was planning to “return to normal life” but offered no details of his detention, adding he would not be conducting any interviews or holding a press conference.
“I just want everyone to know I am OK, and to thank them for their concern for my well-being and their support for my family over the past week,” he said in a statement.
However Mr. Sigley gave no indication of why he was held, how he was treated or why he was released. It said he would not make any further comment “at this time or later”.
Also on Friday, Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton cautioned Mr. Sigley against returning to Pyongyang.