Global News

North Korea : Canadian pastor on way home after release

North Korea : Canadian pastor on way home after release

The Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday that North Korea's central court had made a decision to free Hyeong Soo Lim, who was serving a life sentence for anti-state activities.

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.

North Korea's official KCNA news agency reported that a Canadian delegation had left the country on Thursday, according to NK News.

Lim's release came almost two months after the death of USA college student Otto Warmbier shortly after he was released from North Korea in a coma.

At least three United States citizens remain in North Korean custody.

"Strategically, North Korea perhaps hopes to engender some goodwill from Canada as tensions rise", said Charles Burton, a former Canadian diplomat in China.

Lim has visited North Korea more than 100 times for humanitarian activities since 1997.

The family expressed gratitude to the Canadian, North Korean and Swedish governments.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed the news and said, 'The Government of Canada was actively engaged on Mr Lim's case at all levels'. The university, founded in 2010 with donations from South Korean and American Christians, including the Illinois-based Church of the Brethren, remains the only private university in the country.

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North Korea's regime earlier on Wednesday threatened to "contain" the U.S. bases on the island of Guam, and warned the United States it was ready for an "all-out war". Canada does not have an embassy in North Korea but Sweden has one in the country's capital, Pyongyang.

"We're relieved to hear" that the pastor Lim, 62 years of age, "is headed for the house to finally find her family", said Lisa Park, a spokesman for the family said in a statement.

There was the case of the American Otto Warmbier, who was also detained in North Korea after attempting to steal a propaganda poster from a Pyongyang hotel.

In an interview with CNN past year, Lim confirmed that he was indeed shipped off to a labor camp to serve out his life sentence with eight hours a day of digging holes to plant apple trees.

Since Lim, who formerly led Light Presbyterian Church in Toronto, was detained, the Korean community in numerous locations held multiple prayer gatherings for his release, including in Canada, the US, and South Korea.

But it may come as some solace to Lim's congregation and family that when a USA diplomat recently went to North Korea to retrieve Warmbier, he reported seeing Lim and said that he was still able to stand.

Since 2009, over 10 U.S. citizens have been detained in North Korea on charges of anti-state acts and other unspecified crimes.

It quoted the person who took the photograph as saying that the flight, which had no number, was carrying Lim, who was released on Wednesday by North Korea on humanitarian grounds.

That delegation was pivotal towards securing Lim's release, Ontario MPP Raymond Cho said.


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