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Alek Sigley Rejects North Korea’s Claims That He Is a Spy

The Australian student also said he has "no plans to visit the country again, at least in the short term."

by Gavin Butler
10 July 2019, 1:18am

Image via YouTube/ABC News (Australia)

This article originally appeared on VICE Asia

Alek Sigley, the Australian student who was released by North Korean authorities last week, has dismissed the allegations that he was spying on the country. The 29-year-old had been living in the nation’s capital of Pyongyang and writing for a number of western media outlets before he abruptly went missing for nine days between June 25 and July 4. Following his sudden release and expulsion from North Korea last week, local state media claimed that his arrest was a result of him being caught “red-handed” collecting data and photographs and passing them on to "anti-DPRK" media outlets.

The news agency further claimed that Alek had admitted to his "spying acts" and was expelled from North Korea out of "humanitarian leniency."

"He honestly admitted his spying acts of systematically collecting and offering data about the domestic situation of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] and repeatedly asked for pardon, apologising for encroachment upon the sovereignty of the DPRK," the agency said.

Having not commented previously on the circumstances surrounding his detention, Alek took to Twitter last night to reject these claims:

NK News, an American publication specialising in North Korean news and analysis that has previously published some of Alek’s work, has similarly denounced the claim that his articles were anti-DPRK.

"The six articles Alek published represent the full extent of his work with us and the idea that those columns, published transparently under his name between January and April 2019, are 'anti-state' in nature is a misrepresentation which we reject," said Chad O'Carroll, CEO of NK News publisher the Korea Risk Group. "Alek Sigley's well-read columns presented an apolitical and insightful view of life in Pyongyang which we published in a bid to show vignettes of ordinary daily life in the capital to our readers."

Alek went on to suggest that, while he remains interested in North Korea in general, he may never go back.

Alek was living in the nation's capital of Pyongyang and studying at Kim Il Sung University at the time of his disappearance, as well as running a tour company, Tongil Tours, that organised trips for foreign students. He also wrote opinion articles and essays that appeared in a number of Western media outlets. Last year VICE Australia published an article featuring an interview with Alek about his experience as a tour guide.

"You see the image in the media when it comes to North Korea and it's snarling, glaring people in military uniforms and stuff like that,” he said at the time. “But when you go there... it's different.”

Alek previously released a statement via NK News, in which he said that he would not be making any comment regarding arrest, detention, and eventual expulsion.

"I just want everyone to know that I am OK, and to thank them for their concern for my wellbeing and their support for my family over the past week. I'm very happy to be back with my wife, and to have spoken with my family in Perth (Australia) to reassure them I'm well.

"I intend now to return to normal life but wanted to first publicly thank everyone who worked to ensure I was safe and well."

He reaffirmed last night that he will not be giving any media interviews, holding a press conference, or answering questions about the situation on social media.

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