On the same day Donald J. Trump threatened North Korea with nuclear war and Kim Jong Un threatened him right back, the authoritarian nation also made a gesture of good will towards Canada. Last Thursday, North Korea released 62 year-old Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim of Mississauga from prison where he was sentenced to a lifetime of hard labour.
Born and raised in South Korea, Lim moved to Toronto in 1986 and subsequently joined the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga. Over the next three decades, he was a key figure in the church and saw the congregation grow from a dozen members to a thriving 3,000.
Lim has traveled to North Korea over 100 times to do humanitarian work since the four-year famine in 1996. On his last trip in 2015, Lim was charged by the regime with attempting to spark a religious revolution and sentenced to death. His sentence was later converted to a lifetime of hard labour.
Last week, Justin Trudeau sent an an envoy to North Korea to negotiate Lim’s release. In a rare display of charity, the North Korean government freed him on ‘sick bail … from the humanitarian viewpoint,’ according to their state media.
On Sunday, at the Light Korean Church, the pastor spoke for the first time since his release about his two and a half years in the North Korean prison. He detailed how he was placed in solitary confinement, forced to work in extreme temperatures, dug holes in frozen mud with frost-bitten fingers and was hospitalized four times during his imprisonment. Lim credits his faith for getting him through the extreme conditions and ‘overwhelming loneliness.’
‘From the first day of my detainment to the day I was released, I ate 2,757 meals in isolation by myself. It was difficult to see when and how the entire ordeal would end,’ Lim said, ‘While I was labouring, I prayed without ceasing.’
Now, Lim is reunited with his family, the thousands in his congregation, and he can’t seem to put down his baby granddaughter. It’s nice to hear a little bit of positive North Korea news.