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Hyeon Soo Lim, pastor missing in North Korea, knew travel risk

Concern is growing among members of the GTA’s Korean community after the head pastor of a major church vanished while on a humanitarian mission in North Korea.

'We know what North Korea is,' Light Presbyterian Church says amid search for pastor

Canadian pastor missing in North Korea

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6 years ago
1:20
Hyeon Soo Lim disappears after aid trip to North Korea 1:20

Concern is growing among members of the GTA's Korean community after the head pastor of a major church vanished while on a humanitarian mission in North Korea.

Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim, 60, of Mississauga's Light Presbyterian Church was working in the northern region of Rajin where the church runs an orphanage, school and nursing home, when he went missing. He was last heard from on Jan. 31, when he spoke to a parishioner.

Lisa Pak, a pastor and the spokesperson for the Light Presbyterian Church, said Lim has travelled to North Korea more than 100 times and understands the risks.

We know what North Korea is. They’re a very secretive nation and there are certain concerns there when you do travel.- Lisa Pak, Light Presbyterian Church pastor and spokesperson

"We know what North Korea is. They're a very secretive nation and there are certain concerns there when you do travel," Pak told CBC Radio's Metro Morning, adding it was Lim’s personal decision to go there.

"I know it's not routine for a lot of average travellers, but for him it was."

Pak said Lim was on a humanitarian mission, with the goal of checking on the church's facilities to make sure the money that was being sent to North Korea was reaching the people it should.

The Light Presbyterian Church has been operating in North Korea since around 1996, she said, when the United Nations warned about floods and famine in the country's northern region.

Canadian foreign affairs officials said the government is in contact with Lim's family, but citing "privacy reasons" said they couldn't say anything else about their efforts.

"There is no resident Canadian government office in the country. The ability of Canadian officials to provide consular assistance is extremely limited," the department said in a statement.

The Canadian government advises against all travel to North Korea — often called the Hermit Kingdom due to its isolationist stance.

Pak said if the government is reaching out to North Korea, it's likely doing so through the Swedish embassy, which is the main point of Western contact inside the country.

She said Lim's family is holding up as best they can while they wait for news.

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