Canadian officials meet Ontario pastor imprisoned in North Korea
Hyeon Soo Lim, center, who pastors the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, is escorted to his sentencing in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (AP/ Jon Chol Jin)
The Associated Press
Published Friday, December 16, 2016 12:31AM EST
SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - North Korea's state media says Canadian officials have met with a detained Ontario pastor who has been sentenced to life in prison in the country.
Hyeon Soo Lim, a pastor with the Light Korean Presbyterian Church of Mississauga, Ont., was sentenced last December by a North Korean court to life in prison with hard labour for what it called crimes against the state.
Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency said a Canadian government delegation led by Sarah Taylor, director general for North Asia and Oceania for Global Affairs Canada, arrived in North Korea on Tuesday for a three-day visit to discuss Lim's case and other issues.
The agency said the Canadian officials met Lim, but provided no further details.
Lim was convicted by Pyongyang's Supreme Court for trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system and helping U.S. and South Korean authorities lure and abduct North Korean citizens.
North Korea is often accused of using foreign detainees as a way to win concessions from other countries. The country is locked in a standoff with the international community over its expanding nuclear weapons and missiles program.
Lim, who is in his sixties, has been held since February 2015.
Lim's relatives have said the pastor, who is in his 60s, travelled in January 2015 on a regular humanitarian mission to North Korea.
They said Lim has made more than 100 trips to North Korea since 1997 and that his trips were about helping people and were not political.
Lim started the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga nearly three decades ago, shortly after he immigrated from South Korea.
He grew the congregation from about a dozen people in 1986 to more than 3,000 members a family spokeswoman has said. He also runs a smaller church in downtown Toronto that caters to young people.
North Korea is also holding at least two Americans for alleged espionage, subversion and other charges.
Korean-American Kim Tong Chol is serving a 10-year prison term with hard labour, while University of Virginia undergraduate Otto Warmbier has received 15 years.
In July, North Korea announced that it would handle all issues with the United States in line with a wartime law in response to U.S. sanctions that target leader Kim Jong Un. It has not elaborated on what wartime law means, although analysts say that suggests North Korea could deal with U.S. detainees in a harsher manner.
- with files from The Canadian Press.