‘It was in­cred­i­bly chal­leng­ing’

Cana­dian pas­tor freed from North Korean prison speaks to con­gre­ga­tion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - BY MAIJA KAPPLER

A Cana­dian pas­tor freed from a North Korean prison says he spent two years in iso­la­tion, do­ing gru­elling phys­i­cal labour that landed him in hos­pi­tal on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.

Hyeon Soo Lim spoke in Korean to the con­gre­ga­tion at a Toronto-area church Sun­day dur­ing his first pub­lic ap­pear­ance since ar­riv­ing home.

In an English trans­la­tion of the ad­dress pro­vided to me­dia, Lim de­scribes the work he was forced to do and the ef­fects it had on his body.

Lim had been sen­tenced to life in prison with hard labour for al­leged anti-state ac­tiv­i­ties, but was re­leased on what the North Korean gov­ern­ment de­scribed as “sick bail’’ last week.

“The mud was so hard it took two days to dig one hole. It was in­cred­i­bly chal­leng­ing. My up­per body was sweat­ing; my fin­gers and toes were frost­bit­ten,’’ he said.

“One year of this dif­fi­cult labour took a toll on my body and I was ad­mit­ted to the hos­pi­tal for two months. There would be three other oc­ca­sions where I would be ad­mit­ted to the hos­pi­tal in se­ri­ous con­di­tion.’’

When Lim ar­rived at the Light Korean Pres­by­te­rian Church in Mis­sis­sauga, Ont., he was greeted by a cheer­ing crowd. Some in the crowd reached out to em­brace him as he passed.

About a half hour later, Lim gave his ad­dress in front of a church so full that some peo­ple who couldn’t find seats stood in the back.

And al­though the speech’s con­tents read as solemn in the English trans­la­tion, he de­liv­ered them en­er­get­i­cally. He and the au­di­ence laughed as he de­liv­ered jokes in Korean that con­gre­gants later de­scribed as self-dep­re­cat­ing.

He joked that he’s now an ex­pert in North Korea, ex­plain­ing that he read more than a hun­dred books on the coun­try while in prison.

He said he also read the Bi­ble in both English and Korean five times “and mem­o­rized over 700 Bi­ble verses.’’

To­gether, the con­gre­gants sang a song with lyrics that Lim wrote while he was im­pris­oned, re­port­edly about the im­por­tance of faith.

CP PHOTO

Cana­dian pas­tor Hyeon Soo Lim greets mem­bers of the con­gre­ga­tion after a ser­vice at the Light Pres­by­te­rian Church in Mis­sis­sauga, Ont., Sun­day. Lim was re­leased last week from prison in North Korea, where he had been serv­ing a life sen­tence with hard labour for anti-state ac­tiv­i­ties.

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