North Korea says Alek Sigley, who had been detained for several days before being released, had been “spying” for news outlets.
The 29-year-old Australian student was reported missing in late June, but was freed on July 4 after Swedish officials in Pyongyang met the North Korean government.
NK News, one of the websites to publish Alek Sigley’s writing, has rejected North Korea’s claims that he spied for them.
It said Alek Sigley’s columns only “presented an apolitical view of life in Pyongyang”.
Alek Sigley, a fluent Korean speaker, had been living in Pyongyang while studying a Master’s at Kim Il-sung University and running a tourism business.
He has not commented on why he detained. Following his release, he flew to Japan, where his wife lives.
On July 6, North Korea’s state-run news agency KCNA said that Alek Sigley had “on numerous occasions transferred information, including photographs and analysis that he gathered while travelling to every corner of Pyongyang using his status as an international student”.
Alek Sigley had done this “upon request by anti-DPRK [North Korea] news outlets such as NK news”, KCNA added.
The North Korean government decided to deport him on humanitarian grounds after he “honestly admitted that he had been spying… and repeatedly asked for our forgiveness for infringing on our sovereignty”, it said.
North Korea often accuses foreigners detained in its country of espionage or “hostile acts”.
In a statement, NK News, a website specializing in North Korean news and analysis, said it appreciated “the DPRK’s decision to promptly release Sigley on humanitarian grounds”.
The website said it had published six articles from Alek Sigley which showed “vignettes of ordinary daily life in the capital”.“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.”