North Korea claims Australian student was detained for 'spying'

The official North Korean news agency says that Alex Sigley admitted to spying and 'begged to be pardoned.'

Sara Rubenstein ,

Australian student Alek Sigley, 29, who was detained in North Korea, arrives at
Australian student Alek Sigley, 29, who was detained in North Korea, arrives at
REUTERS/Issei Kato

North Korea said on Saturday that an Australian student who was detained for over a week and then expelled was guilty of "spying acts."

Alex Sigley, a university student and tour guide in Pyongyang, was detained by North Korean officials about two weeks ago. He was released after ten days with the help of Sweden, which maintains an embassy in North Korea, and is now safely in Japan where his wife resides.

“Investigation revealed that at the instigation of the NK News and other anti-DPRK media he handed over several times the data and photos he collected and analyzed while combing Pyongyang by making use of the identity card of a foreign student,” the official Pyongyang news agency Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

Sigley has been traveling to and from North Korea since 2012, writing about his experiences with a positive spin on social media. His articles were also published on various media outlets including NK News, an American subscription-based website that provides news and analysis about North Korea. None of his articles or social media posts were critical of North Korea.

“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,” the CEO of NK News said.

“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."

North Korea said that Sigley spread anti-Pyongyang propaganda and provided material for negative news reports about North Korea. The KCNA said that Sigley begged for a pardon before he was deported.

“He honestly admitted his spying acts of systematically collecting and offering data about the domestic situation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea DPRK and repeatedly asked for pardon, apologizing for encroachment upon the sovereignty of the DPRK."