North Korea Australian student spying. Alek Sigley, a 29-year-old Australian student at Kim II Sung University in North Korea, is accused by North Korean authorities of spying. He was detained for more than a week by the Pyongyang regime but has been freed “safe and sound”.
Alek Sigley, the Australian student expelled Thursday from North Korea after being detained for ten days, was arrested for spying, the North Korean authorities in Pyongyang said Saturday.
“The investigation has shown that, at the instigation of NK News and other media hostile to the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), he has repeatedly transmitted information and photos that he has collected and analyzed as he was roaming Pyongyang using the identity card of a foreign student,” reports the North Korean official KCNA news agency.
According to the agency, Alek Sigley, arrested on June 25, acknowledged the facts and asked for clemency from the authorities.
Alek Sigley used social networks in North Korea extensively and regularly published photos and blogs on social topics such as food and fashion. It was his silence on social networks that made his relatives understand that he had disappeared.
Some foreigners have been detained for years in North Korea on charges of spying.
The death of the American student Otto Warmbier in 2017, after 17 years of detention, triggered a long period of tension between the United States and North Korea.
Alek Sigley, one of the few Westerners to live and study in North Korea, disappeared without a trace around June 23.
For days, his family had received no news of his situation, fueling fears that he had become the last of a long list of foreign nationals to end up in detention in the authoritarian, secluded country.
“We have been informed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the official name of North Korea) has released him and has safely left the country,” Morrison told the Australian Parliament.
Originally from Perth, Western Australia, the young man is fluent in Korean and has been studying Korean literature for about a year at Kim Il Sung University, North Korea’s most famous institution. He also ran a travel agency in North Korea and married a Japanese woman last year in Pyongyang.
He has written articles and blog posts about daily life in Pyongyang, including NK News, a US site based in Seoul that provides information and analysis about North Korea. He talked about restaurants or North Korean applications but avoided addressing politically sensitive issues.
His disappearance has led to contacts between the North Korea authorities and a Swedish envoy, Kent Harstedt. Australia has no representation in North Korea and its interests are represented by Sweden.
“I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Swedish authorities for their invaluable help,” added Morrison, hailing the success of this “behind-the-scenes diplomacy”.
Alek Sigley is en route via China to Japan, where his wife Yuka Morinaga lives. She had explained that her husband was “always trying to demystify North Korea, unlike the mainstream Western media, he tries to understand the people who live there.”