Local confined in North Korea

A Vernon man has been caught in the middle of international intrigue.

James Leigh, a security consultant, was held by North Korean authorities for two days while visiting the nation in April.

“I assume from the nature of the questioning, that I was suspected of being a U.S. spy assigned to collect data,” he said via e-mail.

The experience began when he was invited by a North Korean general to attend Army Day April 25.

“I was hoping to establish some business opportunities and experience North Korea as I speak fluent Korean,” he said.

“Upon arrival at Pyongyang airport and after a thorough search of one hour, I was detained in a room for interrogation.”

While in detention, Leigh spoke to Tony Kim, an American teacher arrested April 22 for, “committing criminal acts of hostility aimed to overturn the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea),” according to the North Korean news agency.

“He was being treated much more violently than me and suffered multiple interrogations with 30-minute breaks between each interrogation,” said Leigh.

“He told me there were a large number of foreign prisoners in North Korea that nobody knew about. He said there’s Canadians, Americans and Europeans being held. He seemed resigned to his fate. They were beating him but not me. He was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student and promoting anti government views.”

Leigh was interrogated for two days on and off and then taken to his hotel without any explanation.

“I flew out three days later,” said Leigh, who then went on holidays in Vietnam.

“I have been asked to meet U.S. officials at the embassy here and fly to (Washington) D.C. for a further debriefing.”

This is not the first time that Leigh has been in the headlines.

In 2014, he subdued an intoxicated passenger on a flight from China to Canada, and in 2001, the then-Canadian Alliance became embroiled in controversy when Leigh met with party officials including then Okanagan-Shuswap MP Darrel Stinson.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Robert Smithson of Smithson Employment Law Corporation presents a $10,000 donation to the Habitat for Humanity Okanagan’s Kelowna ReStore. (Contributed)
Habitat for Humanity’s Lake Country build gets $10,000 boost

“I couldn’t be more pleased to offer my support,” says Kelowna employment lawyer Robert Smithson

A Kelowna clinic decided to immunize their patients in a drive-thru flu clinic earlier this month. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Interior Health anticipates increase in flu vaccinations this season

Some 300,000 doses of flu vaccine ready for distribution across Southern Interior

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases, highest daily count since July

The total of COVID-19 cases in the region is now at 662

The District of Lake Country’s wildfire reduction work near Beaver Lake dam will repurpose ground debris for firewood to warm Okanagan Indian Band seniors’ homes. (District of Lake Country)
Lake Country to keep Okanagan Indian Band seniors warm through winter

‘Ironic and satisfying’ repurposed wood from fuel management project to provide heat: OKIB Chief

The North Okanagan Friendship Centre Society is seeking a letter of support from the City of Vernon ahead of its provincial grant application to establish a 37-space daycare facility to serve the Indigenous population. (submitted photo)
Organization looks to bring urban Indigenous daycare to Vernon

North Okanagan Friendship Centre Society seeks letter of support from city ahead of grant application

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Thanks to efforts by a Kelowna shelter and Elections BC, anyone who wishes to can vote in the 2020 BC Provincial Election, even if they don’t have a fixed address. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Kelowna group ensures people experiencing homelessness can vote

Shelter supervisor says voting ‘a fundamental right’ even for those without a fixed address

(Big White Ski Resort photo)
Big White receives 21 cm of snow in 24 hours

Resort’s snow base 41 cm deep, one month until opening day

The deer were allegedly shot within Princeton town limits, late at night. Black Press File Photo.
Armed man, in full camouflage, allegedly shoots deer in downtown Princeton

‘The list of charges goes on and on,’ said RCMP Sgt. Rob Hughes

Copies of an unsolicited newspaper have been reported arriving in mailboxes in Lavington and Predator Ridge among other municipalities across British Columbia. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
LETTER: Questionable newspaper appears in mailboxes

‘I would suggest people do their own research of this ‘newspaper’ before subscribing to it,’ Morning Star reader says

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

Most Read