Alek Sigley walks through the terminal building as he arrives at Haneda Airport on July 4. Picture: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images
Alek Sigley walks through the terminal building as he arrives at Haneda Airport on July 4. Picture: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

NO SPY: Sigley speaks on North Korean ordeal

The Australian student detained in North Korea has broken his silence to deny he is a spy and said he is devastated he would "never again walk the streets of Pyongyang".

Alek Sigley posted a series of tweets on Tuesday night addressing his mysterious detention in the hermit kingdom but providing little detail on what happened to him there.

"I'm back on social media! I want to again thank everyone for their concern and well-wishes. Please rest assured that I am well both mentally and physically. Since I've been getting a lot of questions, I'd like to make a brief statement," the 29-year-old wrote.

"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. Tongil Tours will be cancelling all its tours until further notice."

 

 

He said the situation makes him "very sad" and he will be unable to receive his masters degree from Kim Il Sung University "after completing more than half the course and achieving good results".

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

 

 

Kent Harstedt meets with North Korean officials to negotiate Alek Sigley's release. Source: Nine News
Kent Harstedt meets with North Korean officials to negotiate Alek Sigley's release. Source: Nine News

 

 

Alek Sigley arrives in Japan. Picture: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images.
Alek Sigley arrives in Japan. Picture: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images.

North Korean news agency KCNA said the Australian was caught "red handed" and accused him of using his student status to "comb" through photos and other information in the secretive state.

It claimed North Korea expelled Sigley out of "humanitarian leniency." "He honestly admitted his spying acts of systematically collecting and offering data about the domestic situation of the DPRK and repeatedly asked for pardon, apologising for encroachment upon the sovereignty of the DPRK," the agency said.

Sigley said the allegation he was a spy was "pretty obviously" false and stood by the earlier statement made to NK News which said the columns he wrote from inside North Korea were designed to show life in the capital and were not "anti-state" in nature.

During his time in North Korea, Sigley shared details about his life and at times boasted about the freedom he had. His father Gary Sigley, who is a professor of Asian studies at the University of Western Australia, said his son was treated well in North Korea in a case that bore some similarities to that of Otto Warmbier.

In that case, the American student was convicted of attempting to steal a propaganda poster but died after being sent home to the US in a vegetative state in June 2017.

Sigley said he would not give any further media interviews or answer questions on his time in North Korea, but said he loved being a student there "with all my heart".

"But life doesn't always go according to plan and I have come to accept that," he said.

The conditions around Sigley's detention and release remain shrouded in mystery. His release was brokered by Swedish officials and he was flown from China back to Tokyo to meet his wife last week. At the time, he thanked his family and officials for their support, saying he was "very happy" to be back.

"I especially want to thank Sweden's Special Envoy to North Korea, Kent Rolf Magnus Harstedt, for his efforts on my behalf, along with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne," he said.

"There are many other people whose names I don't know who worked hard in the background as well. I'd like to thank those at the Department of Foreign Affairs in particular.


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