Australian student Alek Sigley was spying, spreading propaganda: North Korea

Seoul: An Australian student detained by North Korea for a week had spread anti-Pyongyang propaganda and engaged in espionage by providing photos and other materials to news outlets with critical views toward the North, North Korea has alleged.

Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, said the North deported Alek Sigley on Thursday after he pleaded for forgiveness over his activities, which the agency said infringed on North Korea's sovereignty.

Alek Sigley arrived in Beijing on Thursday. Credit:AP

He also wrote op-eds and essays that appeared in the Western media, including NK News, although none of them seemed outwardly critical of the North's government and political system.

NK News issued a prompt response to the allegations.

“NK News firstly appreciates the DPRK’s decision to promptly release Sigley on humanitarian grounds,” wrote NK News chief executive Chad O'Carroll in a statement.

“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.

“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.”

North Korea has been accused in the past of detaining Westerners and using them as political pawns to gain concessions. Sigley's father, Gary Sigley, a professor of Asian studies at the University of Western Australia, said his son was treated well in North Korea.

It was a much happier outcome than the case of American college student Otto Warmbier, who was convicted of attempting to steal a propaganda poster and imprisoned in North Korea. Warmbier died shortly after being sent back home to the US in a vegetative state in June 2017.

AP

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