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.

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