TORONTO – The head pastor of one of Canada’s largest congregations, who has been detained by North Korea since February, appeared before media in Pyongyang and admitted to allegations against him, a spokeswoman for his Toronto-area church said on Thursday.
The Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim, from the 3,000-member Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, was seen on video apparently confessing to crimes in front of reporters, said church spokeswoman Lisa Pak.
“There was a press conference in Pyongyang, and he was asked to go and say some statements about his allegations and charges. The Chinese media and the state media were there,” Pak said.
“That’s the most that we know, that the press conference happened and he admitted, I use that word very lightly, to some charges.”
The church said in March that North Korea detained Lim during one of his regular humanitarian missions there. The church had last heard from Lim Jan. 31.
In a statement provided by the church on Thursday, Lim’s family said it had no comments regarding the charges and allegations made against Lim “except that the humanitarian aid projects that Mr. Lim has both initiated and supported in the DPRK have been for the betterment of the people.”
South-Korean born Lim has visited North Korea more than 100 times since 1997 and has helped establish an orphanage and a nursing home there, according to the church. He has lived in Canada since 1986 and is a Canadian citizen.
Canadian media have also reported that Lim has extensive business dealings in North Korea, including ramen and wig factories, gas stations, farms and fishing operations.
Officials at Canada’s Foreign Affairs department were not immediately available for comment. The Canadian government has declined comment on the case but is providing consular assistance to his family.
Canada suspended diplomatic relations with Pyongyang in 2010, leaving it with limited influence there. A year later, Ottawa imposed wide-ranging sanctions on North Korea in response to its nuclear weapons tests.
Lim has been head pastor at his church for 28 years, Pak said, and his group has done humanitarian work in North Korea since about 1997.
Both North Korea and China have clamped down on Christian groups over the past year, and several American Christians have been detained by North Korea.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.