An Australian student detained in North Korea last year on the accusations of espionage reportedly said that he was kidnapped by the secret police and forced to make a false confession. According to international media reports, Alek Sigley was held for nine days back in 2019 while studying for a postgraduate degree in modern Korean literature at the prestigious Kim II-sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea capital. He was later also expelled from the country after Swedish officials had reportedly helped broker his release.
Immediately after his release a local state media outlet further claimed that the Australian student had admitted his 'spying acts' and repeatedly asked for pardon while 'apologizing for encroachment upon the sovereignty of the DPRK'. The state media outlet also claimed that the 29-year-old student passed data and photos he collected by utilising his status as a foreign student to 'anti-state' media outlets. After returning to Australia with the help of Sweden, since Canberra doesn’t have a diplomatic representation in Pyongyang, Sigley had made a brief statement in July last year and added that he won’t be giving any media interviews, holding a press conference or answering questions on social media regarding the incident.
The 29-year-old student had expressed anguish that he may never walk on the streets of Pyongyang saying the city holds “a very special place” in his heart. He wanted to continue academic research in North Korea but had no plans to visit the country again in the short term. The Korean literature student lamented the fact that he won’t be able to receive his master’s degree from Kim Il-sung University after completing more than half the course.
However, the Australian student has now written for a South Korean academic journal stating that the authorities continuously made him write ‘apologies’ as if they wanted to teach him a “lesson”. Sigely’s column reportedly presented an apolitical and insightful view of life in Pyongyang, one of the world’s most secretive city. He did not accuse the authorities of physical mistreatment but called the nine-day interrogation an unpleasant experience where he was completely cut off from the outside world.