Pastor Lim's Church Begs For His Release From North Korea Jail

Hyeon Soo Lim was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour in North Korea.Reuters

The church of a Korean Canadian pastor serving a life sentence in a North Korean prison has urged the government to try to secure his release.

Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, who travelled frequently to North Korea for charity and humanitarian work, was arrested in 2014 and sentenced to hard labour for life on December 16, 2015, after at least 10 months in detention. He was charged with "harming the dignity of the supreme leader", "trying to use religion to destroy North Korea" and "assisting North Koreans' escape". He pleaded guilty to the charges.

A petition in his support said: "He's made more than 100 trips to North Korea during the last 20 years, supplying food, textbooks, and agricultural tools to civilians. His trips were not political in nature."

Now his congregation, Light Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, has asked the Canadian government to intervene as it did for fellow Canadians Homa Hoodfar, jailed in Iran, and Kevin Garratt, held in China. It said in a statement yesterday: "We know that in both cases the highest level of government officials, including Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau himself, were instrumental in securing the release of these fellow Canadians.

"We urge the Canadian government to demonstrate the same attention and determination when engaging in diplomatic talks with the North Korean officials."

A government Global Affairs spokeswoman told The Star: "We have been fully engaged on this case since it began. Minister [St├ęphane] Dion has met with Pastor Lim's son and consular officials are providing assistance to Mr. Lim and his family."

"In the interest of Mr. Lim's case, no further information can be shared," she added.

A spokeswoman for Lim's family, Lisa Pak, said they were concerned about his welfare. They last saw him when CNN broadcast an interview with him in January.

"At that time, there were concerns about his health," she said. "At this point, we are very concerned that his health may have declined and those concerns are heightened precisely because we have no information."