Australian student freed by N Korea denies ‘spying’ on country

Tokyo [Japan]: Alek Sigley, the Australian student who was released by North Korea last week, on Tuesday denied the communist country’s allegations on spying on the authoritarian state, calling it “false”.

In a series of tweets, Sigley said he has no plans returning to North Korea soon and was sad to see the situation which unfolded.

“The allegation that I am a spy is (pretty obviously) false. 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 said.

Sigley had been studying for masters in North Korean literature at Kim ll-sung University and was running a tourism firm in Pyongyang. He is fluent in Korean, apart from English.

The ‘Tongil Tours’, which Sigley ran in North Korea, will be cancelling all its tour programmes “until further notice”.

“The whole situation makes me very sad. 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,” Sigley said in another tweet.
The 29-year-old lamented that he may never walk the streets of Pyongyang, which he said occupied a special place in his heart.

“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,” Sigley said.

Sigley informed that he will not be giving any interviews, holding press conferences and answering questions on social media platforms in connection with the matter.

Sigley was reported missing late last month after his parents had expressed concerns about his whereabouts. However, he was released on July 4 and left the country for Japan on the same day.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) had claimed that Sigley had passed on information and photographs on the domestic situation to the NK News and other anti-DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) media and was detained by authorities on June 25.

“Alek Sigley was caught red-handed committing anti-DPRK incitement through the internet,” the KCNA said while referring to North Korea’s official name.

Sigley admitted “his spying acts of systematically collecting and offering data about the domestic situation of the DPRK” and repeatedly asked for pardon, the KCNA had alleged.

The Australian government had taken Sweden’s help in negotiating his release as the country does not have a diplomatic presence in North Korea. Both countries have now warned Sigley against returning to the communist nation.

Sigley had married his Japanese wife, Yuka Morinaga, in Pyongyang last year. After reuniting with his wife in Tokyo, Sigley thanked all those who facilitated his return and said he intends to return to his normal life soon.