Canadians Seek Release of Pastor Incarcerated in North Korea

February 18, 2016 Updated: February 18, 2016

OTTAWA—On Feb. 16, Hyeon Soo Lim spent his 61st birthday in a labour camp in North Korea where he is incarcerated for life.

It is unlikely he is aware, but it would no doubt encourage the Mississauga pastor to know he has not been forgotten back home.

On Feb. 17, close to 300 of his supporters gathered on Parliament Hill on a cold winter day to pray for his release. They brought with them more than 165,000 petition signatures from Canadians and supporters around the world calling for his release.

Inside the Parliament, Conservative Foreign Affairs critic Tony Clement, took up the issue during question period.

“We stand with his congregation and supporters in the hope that Reverend Lim will soon be free,” said Clement. “Can the honourable minister of foreign affairs please update this House as to the measures being taken to secure the release of this beloved pastor and human rights advocate?”

The government has said it is concerned about Lim and is working to secure his release.

“We are very concerned about his well-being and his rights. We continue to be engaged in this case, providing consular service to him and his family,” responded Omar Alghabra, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs responsible for Consular Affairs.

According to Richard Ha, a spokesperson for Lim’s congregation, members of his congregation and supporters met with opposition leader Rona Ambrose, as well as some other conservative and liberal MPs, seeking their help.

“We have one goal regardless whom we speak with—it is to continue to push to bring Revered Lim home,” Ha said. “We want to make sure this continues to be a top priority of our government to bring Revered Lim home safely.”

Lim, a senior pastor with the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, travelled to North Korea on Jan. 31, 2015, then disappeared. It was later learned that he was arrested. He was sentenced to life with hard labour for “attempting to overthrow the North Korean government.”

According to his congregation, Lim had been on humanitarian missions to North Korea, which included support for a nursing home, a nursery and an orphanage, and much more.