Imprisoned Canadian Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim in Good Spirits, Remaining Faithful despite Grim Sentence

Dec 22, 2015 01:44 PM EST
Despite facing hard labor for life in a North Korean prison, Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim remains in good spirits and health, a church spokeswoman announced on Sunday.

Hyeon Soo Lim speaks during a news conference at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 30, 2015. Reuters

Despite facing hard labor for life in a North Korean prison, Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim remains in good spirits and health, a church spokeswoman announced on Sunday.

According to Reuters, Canadian diplomats were permitted to meet with the Canadian pastor shortly after he was sentenced by North Korea's Supreme Court following a 90-minute trial regarding what was referenced "crimes against the state."

The pastor cried when Canadian diplomats relayed his son's message that "we're all proud of you", church spokeswoman Lisa Pak said. She added that following a prayer meeting for Lim, which drew more than 1,000 churchgoers, two consular officials from Canada's embassy in Seoul and a translator met Lim on Friday.

The church began a petition at the prayer meeting asking UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to seek Lim's release during his upcoming visit to North Korea, Reuters notes.

"We would love for the Trudeau government to let us know that they're on the case and they're doing due diligence and they're doing everything they can," Pak told CBC News at the service.

"If they can give us their assurance, we're fully supportive of their efforts that they would address this issue and make it a high priority."

In a separate statement to CNN, Pak emphasized that Lim remains faithful despite his bleak sentence.

"He knows that our congregation is praying for him. He wants us to know that he's doing okay," the spokeswoman told the media outlet.

As reported by the Gospel Herald, Lim had been doing humanitarian work in North Korea since 1997 and had visited the isolated country more than 100 times, according to his Toronto church, the 3,000-member Light Korean Presbyterian Church.

North Korea's highest court said Lim, 60, had attempted to overthrow the government and undermine its social system with "religious activities" for the past 18 years, China's official Xinhua news agency reported. At the time of his capture, the pastor had a "very serious health problem, very high blood pressure", his church said.

The Canadian government on Wednesday condemned the ruling as "unduly harsh": "The issues of North Korea's governance and judicial system are well known," said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "We are very concerned about someone being sentenced to life in North Korea."

In response, North Korea accused the Canadian government of engaging in "malicious slander": "Public officials of Canada, including its premier, have been rashly unleashing malicious slander against our republic about the hard labor for life sentence against him," the North's KCNA news agency quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.

"We cannot suppress outrage that the Canadian government dares to pick a quarrel with our fair and just judicial decision speaking of 'concern' and 'violation of international law' when its citizen has committed a vicious crime against us."

However, Lim's church have said they are holding out hope that, like Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor but released less than two years later, the pastor will soon be granted his freedom.  

"We hope that he knows that there is a global community who is praying for him and also working hard to secure his release," said Pak."We hope that he remembers his family and congregation and how much they love him."

Tags : Hyeon Soo Lim, North Korea, Canada, Canadian Pastor, Korean-Canadian Pastor Sentenced to Life with Hard Labor, Human Rights Violation