A Canadian pastor who was detained in North Korea appeared at a news conference in Pyongyang Thursday, after being arrested while on a humanitarian visit. Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim said that he had been engaged in activities that could topple the North Korean government and violated the country’s Ebola quarantine policy by entering the country “illegally.”
Lim belongs to the 3,000-member Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto and had traveled into North Korea from China on Jan. 30. He had planned to provide support to projects his church established in the northeastern city of Rajin, CNN reported. The projects include an orphanage, a nursery, and a nursing home. Lisa Pak, a church leader who spoke on behalf of the family reportedly said that Lim, who was arrested in January, had visited the country over 100 times.
State-run news agency KCNA quoted Lim as saying that his motive was to "overturn [North Korea's] social system by taking advantage of the hostile policy against it sought by the South Korean authorities and set up a base for building a religious state," according to Reuters.
Lim said, according to KCNA, that he traveled to the country and gathered information which he used in sermons outside North Korea to try to get the regime to collapse “with the love of God,” Reuters reported. The KCNA report did not specify the length of his sentence.
“I have so far malignantly defamed the dignity and social system of the DPRK [the acronym for North Korea's offical name], pursuant to the scenario of the U.S. and the South Korean regime,” Lim told KCNA, according to the Guardian. He added: “I delivered a 'report on what is going on in North Korea' before tens of thousands of South Koreans and overseas Koreans at sermons on Sundays at my church and during preaching tours of more than 20 countries.”
Lim was born in South Korea and had been visiting North Korea since 1997. He has, however, lived in Canada since 1986 and has a Canadian nationality. Lim’s family said in a statement, provided by his church, that they had no comment on the charges against him "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," Reuters reported.
Since 2010, Canada suspended diplomatic relations with North Korea, where several U.S. Christians have also been detained. Canadian Foreign Affairs officials are reportedly “deeply concerned” about Lim’s case, the BBC reported.
"Canada is deeply concerned with the case of Mr. Lim, who remains detained in North Korea," Diana Khaddaj, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, said, according to CNN, adding: "We continue to advocate for consular access and for a resolution in his case."