Pastor Hyeun-soo Lim (62) is a Canadian citizen who emigrated from South Korea in 1986 and was arrested in North Korea in February 2015, while on a humanitarian mission. In December 2015, the Supreme Court sentenced him to life in prison with hard labour.
LATEST NEWS (AUGUST 2017): Pastor Lim was released from labour camp on 9 August into the care of a Canadian government delegation, which flew him out of Pyongyang.
At his trial in December 2015, Pastor Lim was convicted of numerous charges including attempting to overthrow the government to establish a religious state. Since then, he has been held in a labour camp where he seems to be the only inmate. In early January 2016, he was allowed to give an interview to CNN, in which he said he worked eight hours a day, six days a week, with rest breaks, digging holes for planting apple trees in the prison orchard. He said he received regular medical care and three meals a day.
Hyeun-soo Lim is a pastor at the 3,000-member Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto. He stepped down from his role as head minister to devote himself to humanitarian work in North Korea, which involved distributing aid to nursing homes, day-care centres and orphanages, setting up noodle and tofu factories and farming and educational programmes and running businesses to raise profits for aid projects. Since 1997 he has made more than one hundred visits to North Korea.
Pastor Lim is married with a son, James Lim, in his 30s, and a granddaughter born during the pastor’s imprisonment. In his interview with CNN, Pastor Lim said, “I miss my family. I am longing to see them again… Family is a precious gift from God. I would like to tell my family I love them so much.” On 25 February 2017, he was allowed to telephone his family. While the pastor was not allowed visits from family members, they were able to send him letters and blood pressure medication via the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang.
30 January 2015 Pastor Lim went to North Korea to visit projects his church had established in the northeastern city of Rajin, including an orphanage, nursery and nursing home.
February 2015 Pastor Lim disappeared. It emerged that he had been arrested.
30 July 2015 At a press conference, Pastor Lim read out a statement confessing to crimes aimed at overthrowing the state. North Korea’s official news agency KCNA quoted him as stating his purpose was to “overturn its social system” and to “set up a base for building a religious state”. It is common for foreign detainees in North Korea to be forced to make public “confessions”.
2 August 2015 Pastor Lim confessed before a Pyongyang “show church” congregation (including some foreign residents of Pyongyang) that he had committed crimes against the state. Apparently reading from a script, he told the sparse congregation at Pongsu Church, “The worst crime I committed was to rashly defame and insult the highest dignity and the system of the republic.”
16 December 2015 Following a brief trial, North Korea’s Supreme Court sentenced Pastor Lim to life in prison with hard labour. The Court had convicted him of numerous charges including an attempt to overthrow the government.
18 December 2015 Two consular officials from Canada’s embassy in Seoul met Pastor Lim and reported that he was in good spirits and health, and that he had received medication for an unspecified health condition.
10 January 2016 Pastor Lim was allowed to give an interview to CNN, in which he described conditions in the labour camp.
December 2016 A Canadian government delegation met Pastor Lim during a three-day visit to North Korea to discuss his case and other issues.
22 February 2017 Swedish Ambassador to North Korea Torkel Stiernlof met Pastor Lim in a Pyongyang hotel. The Swedish embassy in Pyongyang looks after consular affairs for Canada in North Korea as the two countries do not have diplomatic relations.
9 August 2017 Pastor Lim was released from labour camp into the care of a Canadian government delegation, which flew him out of Pyongyang. The Korean Central News Agency said he had been released on “sick bail”.
(Charisma News, CNN, Daily NK, Release International, World Watch Monitor)