Pastor freed in North Korea ‘on his way home’
Relatives of a Canadian pastor released this week after more than two years in a North Korean prison said Thursday he is “on his way home’’ and they are anxious to be reunited with him.
The Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday that North Korea’s central court had decided to free Hyeong Soo Lim, who was serving a life sentence for anti-state activities.
The pastor’s release was described as “sick bail,’’ but no other details were given.
In a statement Thursday, a spokeswoman for his family said they look forward to his return.
“We are relieved to hear that Rev. Lim is on his way home to finally reunite with his family and meet his granddaughter for the first time,’’ Lisa Pak said on the family’s behalf.
“There is a long way to go in terms of Rev. Lim’s healing, therefore, in the meantime we ask the media for privacy as he reconnects with his loved ones and receives medical attention.’’
Pak also said the family is grateful to the Canadian government and the Swedish embassy in North Korea for working behind the scenes to secure the pastor’s freedom. She did not say when he was scheduled to arrive in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday he was “pleased and relieved’’ that Lim
had been released.
“Pastor Lim’s health and well-being remain of utmost importance to the government of Canada, and we are working to ensure that he receives any required medical attention,’’ Trudeau said in a brief statement.
The prime minister also thanked Sweden for its assistance in the matter but said “operational security considerations’’ prevent the government from discussing the case further.
While Canada lacks an embassy in North Korea, Sweden has maintained one in Pyongyang since 1975. Sweden acts as the “protective power’’ for
Canada and other countries, meaning it can provide different services including consular responsibility for Canadian citizens.
Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeted that she was glad Sweden could assist with the effort to free Lim.
In a Facebook post, she said Sweden had been “actively engaged in Pastor Lim’s case over a long period of time.’’
“Our presence in North Korea enables us to engage in dialogue and interactions. We take this role very seriously.’’
Wallstrom called Lim’s release a “ray of hope’’ amid mounting tensions between Pyongyang and Washington.
Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, centre, is escorted to his sentencing in Pyongyang, North Korea. 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.