A senior North Korean Foreign Ministry official just met with a Swedish ambassador to discuss diplomatic access for Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim, a 60-year-old Canadian pastor who was born in South Korea, and who now is being held in a labor camp after being arrested and sentenced by a North Korean court in December 2015, Korean Central News Agency reported.
The Swedish ambassador also raised the issue of consular affairs for at least two American detainees being held for alleged espionage, subversion and other anti-state activities, according to The Associated Press.
Lim is the pastor of the 3,000-member Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ontario. Although he was visiting North Korea for a humanitarian purpose, state prosecutors accused him of using the "false pretense" of humanitarian aid to enter into North Korea to use religion to attempt to overthrow the Kim regime.
Lim's family thanked the Swedish ambassador for the efforts, reports The Christian Post. "We would like to extend our particular gratitude to the Swedish officials for their ongoing support and work in aiding our government on behalf of our family," the family said, according to The Canadian Press. "We hope to see him home soon."
At the time of Lim's arrest, Korean Central News Agency representatives stated Lim was guilty of "[committing] anti-DPRK religious activities, [conducting] false propaganda among overseas Koreans, and [taking] active part in the operation of the U.S. and (a South Korean) conservative group to lure and abduct DPRK citizens [...] in their programs for 'aiding defectors from the North.'"
In January, more than 125,000 people signed an online petition calling for Lim's release. The petition posted to the advocacy website change.org called on Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, and Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion to work to free Lim.
Will Ripley of CNN interviewed Lim in North Korea during January. The pastor said he was receiving regular meals and medical treatment in prison.
"Lim appears to be the only inmate in the labor camp. He has not seen any other prisoners. Lim works eight hours a day, six days a week, with rest breaks, digging holes for the planting of apple trees in the prison orchard. There are always two guards watching over him. He is serving a life sentence of hard labor. He has no contact with the outside world," CNN stated.
Last December, 1,000 people held a prayer vigil for the imprisoned pastor at Light Presbyterian Church.