An Australian student arrested in North Korea last year on the accusations of espionage reportedly said that the authorities forced him to write apologies and false confession. Alek Sigley was a student of modern Korean literature at Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang and his arrest raised global alarm.
Sigley spent nine days in detention before he was released and deported back to Australia. Immediately after his release, North’s state media made sensational claims that the Australian student had admitted his “spying acts” and repeatedly asked for pardon while “apologizing for encroachment upon the sovereignty of the DPRK”.
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.
“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,” said Sigley in a statement.
But 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.