Australian student expelled from North Korea denies spying

Sigley at Beijing international airport in China after being released by North Korea.
PHOTO: Reuters

SEOUL - An Australian student who was expelled from North Korea denied on Tuesday (June 9) that he was spying on the authoritarian state while he lived there.

Alek Sigley, 29, was released last week after being detained for several days, with Pyongyang later accusing him of promoting propaganda against the country online.

"The allegation that I am a spy is (pretty obviously) false," he wrote on Twitter, adding that he was "well both mentally and physically".

"I am still very interested in North Korea and want to continue academic research and other work related to the country. But I currently have no plans to visit the country again, at least in the short term," he wrote.

The tweets were the first comments addressing the incident from Sigley, who had been one of just a handful of Westerners living and studying in North Korea.

"I may never again walk the streets of Pyongyang, a city that holds a very special place in my heart," he added.

"I may never again see my teachers and my partners in the travel industry, whom I've come to consider close friends. But that's life."

His detention, which prompted deep concern about his fate, came just days before a Group of 20 (G-20) summit and a landmark meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Sigley, who speaks fluent Korean, organised tours to North Korea and ran a number of social media sites which posted a stream of apolitical content about life in one of the world's most secretive nations.

He also wrote columns for specialist website NK News, which North Korean state media called an anti-regime news outlet in a report on Saturday.

In the report it also said the country had deported Sigley for spying.

NK News has released a statement denying the accusations, which the student said he stood by.

The case was complicated by Australia's lack of diplomatic representation in North Korea, with the Swedish envoy helping to negotiate his release.

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