North Korea — A Canadian pastor was sentenced to life in prison with hard labor by North Korea’s highest court for “crimes against the state.”
Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, 60, was convicted Dec. 16 of numerous charges, including an attempt to overthrow the government. He had been detained in North Korea for 10 months.
The sentencing, which followed a brief trial, was a blow to his family whose hopes were raised when Canada’s newly elected government committed to scaling up efforts to get him released.
Lim’s trial was the first time Canadian officials had seen the 60-year-old since he was taken into custody in February, according to reports.
Lim, pastor at the Light Presbyterian Church in Toronto, had visited North Korea more than 100 times to distribute humanitarian aid for nursing homes, daycare centers and orphanages.
He was detained last February and charged with slandering the North Korean leadership and its system of government and trying to use religion to destroy the state.
Prosecutors had sought the death penalty.
During a North Korean press conference in July, Lim was forced to read a public confession. North Korea usually pronounces a sentence within weeks after a ‘confession,’ but it took five months for Lim’s sentencing.
“Most likely, diplomatic efforts to secure Lim’s release failed,” World Watch Monitor was told. The source, which cannot be named for security reasons, said North Korea had probably hoped to get more out of the negotiations.
“Whatever that ‘more’ is, we don’t know. Pastors like Lim, who have seen so much of how North Korea treats its prisoners, cannot easily be released,” the source continued. “Unless Canada makes an offer North Korea can’t refuse, I don’t see Lim returning home anytime soon.”
Lim was involved in humanitarian aid and not with the underground church. It is believed his arrest and sentence will have no impact on this church network. However, North Korean believers could be dealt with even more harshly if they are exposed according to the inside source.
Another consequence of the Lim case is that North Korea now applies a stricter visa policy and non—governmental organizations – especially from the US and Canada – are much less eager to continue or start up work in Kim Jong—Un’s state.
In May 2014, North Korea sentenced South Korean pastor Kim Jong—Wook to a life of hard labor. As a missionary, Kim operated from the Chinese border city, Dandong, where he provided shelter, food and other aid to North Korean refugees who crossed the border seeking relief from the famine in their country. Kim also taught the refugees about the bible.
North Korean agents infiltrated his network and convinced him to visit their country, which he did on Oct. 8, 2013. Kim was expecting to find out what had happened to some refugees with whom he had lost contact, but instead he was arrested, interrogated and possibly tortured.
In February 2014, Kim told the North Korean media that he had spied for the South Korean government, had given money to North Koreans to set up 500 underground churches and attempted to overthrow the regime. After a trial in May 2014 North Korea’s state media reported that prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Kim, but the court imposed the life sentence after the pastor had “sincerely repented.”
North Korea has been extending its crackdown on Christian activities in its own country and the Chinese border area.
Last year three detained Americans were released by North Korea, including Kenneth Bae, a missionary, and Jeffrey Fowle who had left a Bible at a sailor’s club in the city of Chongjin.
— by World Watch Monitor