SEOUL, South Korea — An Australian student who was deported from North Korea denied on Tuesday that he had been spying against the isolated country and said he was sad that he might never be able to go there again.
The student, Alek Sigley, 29, a graduate student in Korean literature at Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang, lost contact with his family last month, prompting fears that he might have been facing imprisonment.
But the North Korean authorities deported him on Thursday last week, later claiming that he had admitted to “spying acts of systematically collecting information” about the country and handing it to outside news media outlets, including a site based in South Korea called NK News that specializes in news about the North.
“The allegation that I am a spy is (pretty obviously) false,” Mr. Sigley said in a statement posted on Twitter on Tuesday. “The only material I gave to NK News was what was published publicly on the blog, and the same goes for other media outlets.”
NK News has also denied that Mr. Sigley was spying on its behalf.
Mr. Sigley said he would not give any interviews to the news media.
He said he was disappointed that he would now be unable to finish his master’s degree. “I may never again walk the streets of Pyongyang, a city that holds a very special place in my heart,” he wrote.
Mr. Sigley was the rare Westerner who embraced life in North Korea, offering glimpses into life in Pyongyang through his frequent posts on Twitter and Facebook, as well as his columns in NK News and elsewhere. His social media posts often included images of local cuisine, restaurants and shops.
Western visitors to North Korea are relatively few. But some Americans and other foreigners have been arrested and given long sentences for what to outsiders may appear to be minor infractions, such as handing out religious materials to local residents or stealing a government sign.
North Korea said Mr. Sigley had been expelled with “humanitarian leniency.” His fate contrasted with that of Otto F. Warmbier, the American student who died in 2017 after falling into a coma while being detained in North Korea.
Australia has credited Swedish diplomats with helping to free Mr. Sigley. Australia does not have an embassy in Pyongyang and relies on the Swedish Embassy there to protect its citizens in the North.
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