World

Jailed pastor Hyeon Soo Lim sees Canadian delegation in Pyongyang a second time

The Canadian government says it is concerned about the rights and well-being of a Canadian pastor serving a life sentence in a North Korean jail, after Canadian diplomats had the chance to see him in Pyongyang.

Church minister, 60, sentenced to a life of hard labour in North Korea

North Korea sentenced church minister Hyeon Soo Lim to life in prison last December, accusing him of plotting to overthrow the North Korean government. (Kyodo/Reuters)

The Canadian government says it is concerned about the rights and wellbeing of a Canadian pastor serving a life sentence in a North Korean jail, after Canadian diplomats had the chance to see him in Pyongyang.

A delegation of unidentified Canadian officials met in recent days with Hyeon Soo Lim, a Toronto-area pastor of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church. Officials would not discuss the exact timing of the visit, or how long it lasted, citing Lim's best interests.

It's the second time Canadians have visited Lim since December, when he was sentenced to a life of hard labour in prison.

Lim was convicted of attempting to overthrow North Korea's regime.

"The government of Canada is concerned for Mr. Lim's rights and well-being," said Joseph Pickerill, spokesman for Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion, who is in Japan ahead of a G7 ministerial meeting.

"Consular officials are providing assistance to Mr. Lim and his family. We are grateful that we were able to visit him."

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

The family has been informed of the visit and is again expressing concern about Lim's health. They also want Ottawa to do more to have him released.

"While it is good news to hear that Canada has sent a delegation into Pyongyang … we are hoping to hear the best news, that Reverend Lim will be returning home," Lisa Pak, a spokeswoman for the family, told CBC News.  

"We trust that Canada is doing all they can to secure his release and urge Canadian officials to continue engaging in diplomatic talks at the highest levels possible."

Since 2010, Canada has had a limited "controlled engagement" policy with Pyongyang, due to a pattern of "aggressive actions," according to Global Affairs.

That "controlled engagement" does allow for interaction on consular cases like Lim's.

Pyongyang claimed a successful fourth nuclear test in January, and several of missiles since. The UN Security Council recently imposed fresh sanctions over the tests.

Lim, who is 60, visited North Korea more than 100 times for humanitarian work before he was apprehended on his final visit in January last year.

In an interview with CNN after his conviction, Lim said he worked eight hours a day digging holes.

"I hope I can go home some day,"he said. "Nobody knows if I will ever go home, but that is my hope. I miss my family. I am longing to see them again, and my congregation."

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