North Korea says released Australian student was ‘spying’

North Korea says released Australian student was ‘spying’

Australian student Alek Sigley (C) smiles upon arriving at Haneda International airport in Tokyo on July 4, 2019, following his release. - A 29-year-old Australian student detained in North Korea surfaced in Beijing on July 4, saying he felt "great" after being released. Alek Sigley -- one of a handful of Westerners living and studying in North Korea -- disappeared without a trace around June 23, prompting a week of deep concern and frantic speculation about his fate. (Photo by Toshifumi KITAMURA / AFP)

An Australian student who was released after being held in North Korea had been “spying” in the reclusive country, state media said 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 Sigley had “honestly 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”.

It said that 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 to specialist website NK News.

“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, using the initials of North Korea’s official name.

“The government of DPRK has exercised humanitarian forbearance and deported him from our grounds on July 4.”

Sigley, who spoke fluent Korean, organised tours to North Korea. He also ran a number of social media sites, which usually had a stream of apolitical content about life in one of the world’s most secretive nations.

His blog posts focused on everyday Pyongyang — everything from the city’s dining scene to North Korean app reviews — and he married his Japanese wife there last year.

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