62 year old Canadian pastor released from prison
A 62-year-old Canadian pastor who was sentenced to a life term of hard labour in North Korea for “crimes against the state” in December 2015 has been released on humanitarian grounds, the country’s official news agency says. The release comes as tensions mount between the US and Pyongyang.
Following the death of detained American student Otto Warmbier, who was returned by North Korea to the US in a coma with serious brain damage, Mr Lim’s family increased their calls for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “change strategy” to help secure Lim’s release. The Canadian government confirmed a delegation had arrived in Pyongyang to discuss Mr Lim’s case last week.
Toronto-based pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, who is of South Korean origin, was sentenced after a 90-minute trial at the North Korean Supreme Court . He had publicaly confessed to plotting to overthrow the North Korean government and set up a “religious state”. In January 2016, Mr Lim described his hard labour sentence which involved digging holes eight hours a day in a camp where he did not see any other detainees.
Mr Lim’s family said he had traveled to Pyongyang in January 2015 to build a nursing home, nursery and orphanage. His church confirmed he had visited the country more than 100 times since 1997.
Because religious activity is banned in North Korea, the authorities periodically detain foreigners for religious or missionary activity. In such cases North Korean authorities have often publicised staged public confessions from the prisoners, which were likely to have been obtained under duress.