N Korea says freed Australian student was spying, pleaded for pardon

The Australian student who vanished in North Korea more than a week ago arrived in Tokyo Thursday

An Australian student in Pyongyang was detained for spying last month and admitted his "anti-state" activities, the North Korean state media said Saturday, two days after his expulsion from the communist nation.

"Alek Sigley was caught red-handed committing anti-DPRK incitement through the internet", the KCNA said while referring to North Korea's official name.

Official North Korean news agency KCNA said Sigley had admitted "he had been spying by collecting our internal information and sharing with others and repeatedly asked for our forgiveness for infringing on our sovereignty".

Sigley's friend and fellow student of North Korea, University of Technology Sydney academic Bronwen Dalton, said Sigley's wife was thrilled by his release.

Australian student Alek Sigley arrives at the airport in Tokyo on Thursday.

Alek Sigley, a 29-year-old Australian who was studying literature at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, is pictured upon his arrival at Beijing's global airport on July 4, 2019, after being released from detention in North Korea. His family said in a statement that he first visited North Korea in 2012 and is fluent in Korean and Mandarin.

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.

The country had not commented on Mr Sigley prior to the news agency's reports yesterday.

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Australia doesn't have a diplomatic presence in North Korea.

Chad O'Carroll, director of the NK News, said in a statement on Saturday that Sigley's columns for the site "presented an apolitical and insightful view of life in Pyongyang".

On his company's website, he ran a blog where he described life in North Korea as a student and "steered clear of politically sensitive issues".

"The six articles Alek printed signify the fat extent of his work with us and the postulate that these columns, printed transparently below his name between January and April 2019, are "anti-affirm" in nature is a misrepresentation which we reject". After his arrival in Beijing, he went to Tokyo to reunite with his Japanese wife, Yuka, who he married in Pyongyang a year ago.

He has written articles and blog posts about daily life in Pyongyang, including NK News, a USA site based in Seoul that provides information and analysis about North Korea.

"I'm not talking to media about it for the time being", he said.

However, he was released on Thursday and left the country for Japan on the same day.

Then 22, Warmbier returned home to OH in a vegetative state - blind, deaf, and having sustained severe brain damage from his year in detention.

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