Cana­dian pastor freed in North Korea

Cape Breton Post - - Canada -

An On­tario church con­gre­ga­tion is cel­e­brat­ing news of the re­lease of their pastor from a North Korean prison more than two years af­ter he was ar­rested in the coun­try.

A de­ci­sion from North Korea’s cen­tral court freed Hyeon Soo Lim from the prison where he was serv­ing a life sen­tence for anti-state ac­tiv­i­ties, the coun­try’s Korean Cen­tral News Agency re­ported Wed­nes­day.

The pastor’s re­lease, which came on the heels of an of­fi­cial visit from a Cana­dian gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion, was de­scribed as “sick bail’’ by the news agency. No other de­tails were pro­vided.

Lim, a pastor with the Light Korean Pres­by­te­rian Church in Mis­sis­sauga, Ont., had been sen­tenced by a North Korean court to life in prison with hard labour for what it called crimes against the state.

Charges against him in­cluded harm­ing the dig­nity of the supreme lead­er­ship, try­ing to use re­li­gion to de­stroy the North Korean sys­tem, dis­sem­i­nat­ing neg­a­tive pro­pa­ganda about the North to over­seas Kore­ans, and help­ing Amer­i­can and South Korean ef­forts to help peo­ple de­fect from the north.

Word of Lim’s re­lease drew mem­bers of his con­gre­ga­tion to their church, just west of Toronto, where they were seen hug­ging and cry­ing Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

Charles Baik, an as­so­ciate pastor with the church’s English min­istry, said mem­bers are ec­static at the prospect of Lim’s re­turn.

“We’re so happy he’s been re­leased, ‘’ Baik said from out­side the church.

Lim, who has a wife and son liv­ing in the Toronto area, started the Light Korean Pres­by­te­rian Church nearly three decades ago, shortly af­ter he em­i­grated from South Korea.

He grew the con­gre­ga­tion from about a dozen peo­ple in 1986 to more than 3,000 mem­bers. He also runs a smaller church in down­town Toronto that caters to young peo­ple.

The church has taken on nu­mer­ous hu­man­i­tar­ian projects in North Korea, one of which prompted Lim’s last trip there in Jan­uary 2015.

Fam­ily and friends pre­vi­ously said he was vis­it­ing an or­phan­age, nurs­ery and nurs­ing home in the coun­try at the time of his ar­rest. The pastor had suc­cess­fully trav­elled to North Korea more than 100 times over the past two decades, they added.

Baik said the pastor’s or­deal would not de­ter the church from fu­ture hu­man­i­tar­ian projects in the coun­try.

“Mis­sions will never stop, no mat­ter where they may be,’’ he said.

Fam­ily mem­bers had urged the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment to put pres­sure on North Korea to se­cure Lim’s re­lease.

CP PHOTO

In this im­age made from July 30, 2015, video, Cana­dian Hyeon Soo Lim speaks in Py­ongyang, North Korea. Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s of­fice con­firmed a del­e­ga­tion is in North Korea to dis­cuss the Cana­dian pastor im­pris­oned there and North Korean me­dia said Trudeau’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Daniel Jean, had ar­rived in Py­ongyang on Tues­day.

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