North Korea sentences Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim to life for anti-state conspiracy

Jack Kim
Seoul
Wednesday 16 December 2015 18:21
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Hyeon Soo Lim being led out for his sentencing in Pyongyang
Hyeon Soo Lim being led out for his sentencing in Pyongyang

The only Western citizen still held in North Korea, a Canadian pastor accused of attempting to topple the regime, was sentenced to a lifetime of hard labour in a verdict that has been widely condemned.

Hyeon Soo Lim, the head pastor at a Toronto church that is one of Canada’s largest, had been in custody in North Korea since February. He had appeared on North Korean state media earlier this year confessing to crimes against the state. Mr Lim admitted “not only viciously defaming the highest dignity of Korea and its system but also possessing the wicked intention of trying to topple the Republic by staging an anti-state conspiracy”, KCNA said.

The court said Mr Lim had attempted to overthrow the North Korean government and to undermine its social system with “religious activities” over the last 18 years. The Canadian government said it was dismayed by the “unduly harsh sentence” imposed, particularly given Mr Lim’s “age and fragile health” and said it had not been able to meet Mr Lim since his detention, despite repeated requests.

“This is a serious violation of the right of states to have consular access to their citizens,” spokeswoman Diana Khaddaj said. KCNA did not mention what specific activities Mr Lim engaged in, but Xinhua reported that Mr Lim confessed to helping people defect from North Korea, and had met the US ambassador to Mongolia regarding the plans.

Mr Lim was led to sentencing in Pyongyang on Wednesday by two security personnel. North Korea has previously sentenced a Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae to 15 years of hard labour but released him last year after holding him for two years.

In July, Mr Lim appeared at a news conference in North Korea and confessed that he had travelled there on the pretext of humanitarian work and gathered information that he used in sermons outside the country to drive the regime to a collapse. His church, the 3,000-member Light Korean Presbyterian Church, has said Mr Lim had visited the North more than 100 times since 1997 and had helped establish an orphanage and a nursing home there. Mr Lim has lived in Canada since 1986 and is a Canadian citizen.

His church said in March that Mr Lim, who was 60 at the time, has “a very serious health problem, very high blood pressure, he’s on a prescription, and his family is anxious to send medicine”.

Last year, Pyongyang released three detained Americans, including Mr Bae and another man who had left a copy of the Bible at a club.

Reuters

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