Canadian pastor ‘on his way home’ after years in North Korea prison, family says
Relatives of a Canadian pastor released this week after more than two years in a North Korean prison said he is “on his way home” and they are anxious to be reunited with him.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also confirmed North Korea freed Hyeon Soo Lim, a day after state media reported the Canadian had been released from prison. Lim was serving a life sentence of hard labour for what North Korea said was an attempt to overthrow the regime.
The pastor’s release was described as “sick bail,” but no other details were given.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday he was “pleased and relieved” that Lim had been released.
“The Government of Canada was actively engaged on Mr. Lim’s case at all levels. In particular, I want to thank Sweden, our protecting power in North Korea, for assisting us,” Trudeau said in a statement.
While in prison, Lim met with a Swedish ambassador who helped him contact his family in Canada. Canada does not have an embassy in North Korea but Sweden has one in the country’s capital, Pyongyang.
Lim, a pastor with the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ont., headed to North Korea in January 2015 for a humanitarian mission. He was later arrested and sent to prison in December 2015, where he said he spent eight hours a day digging holes at a labour camp.
This week, Trudeau said a Canadian government delegation led by the country’s national security adviser travelled to North Korea to discuss Lim’s imprisonment.
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“Pastor Lim’s health and well-being remain of utmost importance to the Government of Canada, and we are working to ensure that he receives any required medical attention,” Trudeau said in the statement.
“He will soon be reunited with his family and friends in Canada.”
In a statement Thursday, a spokeswoman for his family said “there is a long way to go” in terms of Lim’s healing and stressed the need for privacy as he receives unspecified medical attention
Lisa Pak also said the family is grateful to the Canadian government and the Swedish embassy in North Korea for working behind the scenes to secure the pastor’s freedom. She did not say when he was scheduled to arrive in Canada.
With files from the Canadian Press
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