Family awaits ailing pastor's return from North Korea

Posted August 11, 2017

The family of a Canadian pastor released from a North Korean prison said Thursday he is now on his way home.

In a statement Thursday on his website, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed relief that Lim had been freed.

Lim, a 62-year-old South Korean-born Canadian citizen, was convicted and sentenced in 2015 on charges of trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system and helping USA and South Korean authorities lure and abduct North Korean citizens.

Lim's Toronto-area church has said he visited the North more than 100 times since 1997 and helped set up an orphanage and nursing home.

North Korea's official news agency had announced Wednesday that the 62-year-old pastor and humanitarian worker who suffers from high blood pressure was released for health reasons.

"Pastor Lim's health and well-being remain of utmost importance to the government of Canada as we continue to engage on this case", Cameron Ahmad, a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office, told The Canadian Press on Tuesday.

Pastor Lim's church, which is around 3,000 strong, has supported various missions to North Korea.

There was no clear connection between the release of Hyeon Soo Lim and the heightened rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang.

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The prime minister also thanked Sweden for its assistance in the matter but said "operational security considerations" prevents the government from discussing the matter further.

North Korea has in the past attracted the attention of Washington and visits by high-profile Americans with the detention and release of US citizens.

"There is a long way to go in terms of Reverend Lim's healing, therefore, in the meantime we ask the media for privacy as he reconnects with his loved ones and receives medical attention", they added, and extended their thoughts to those still in the rogue nation.

Canada recognized the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - North Korea's official name - in 2000.

Lim's family had become increasingly anxious about his welfare since the death of American student Otto Warmbier in June, just days after he had been released from a North Korean prison.

A Mississauga man who has been in detention in North Korea for the past two and a half years is finally coming home.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans took to the streets of Pyongyang in a display of defiance after U.S. President Donald Trump's latest warning to the reclusive state.