Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ottawa Managed to Visit Canadian Pastor Imprisoned in North Korea

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ottawa Managed to Visit Canadian Pastor Imprisoned in North Korea

Article excerpt

Ottawa visits pastor in North Korean prison

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OTTAWA - The federal government said Wednesday it has found a way to visit a Canadian pastor in a North Korean prison, where he is serving a life sentence.

Hyeon Soo Lim, a pastor with the Light Korean Presbyterian Church of Mississauga, Ont., was recently sentenced by a North Korean court to life in prison at hard labour for what it called crimes against the state.

Joseph Pickerill, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, said consular officials have managed to provide assistance to Lim and his family.

"We are grateful that we were able to visit him," Pickerill said in an email, but he did not elaborate. "In the interest of Mr. Lim's case, no further information can be shared."

Canada, like many countries, does not have an embassy in North Korea, and has advised against all travel there.

Earlier Wednesday, Conservative foreign affairs critic Tony Clement urged the government to find a way to engage directly with reclusive North Korea in an effort to seek Lim's release.

The government could use an intermediary country to speak directly to the so-called hermit kingdom "at the highest levels," Clement told a news conference.

Clement said the Conservatives do not view Lim's imprisonment as a partisan issue and want to work with the government to secure his release.

"We want to play a constructive role and not put them on the spot," Clement said. "We just want this to be a success. Whoever wants to take credit, can take credit."

Omar Alghabra, the parliamentary secretary to Dion on consular affairs, told the House of Commons he planned to meet with supporters of Lim who had come to Ottawa to advocate for him.

"We will continue to be engaged on this file until we resolve his case."

Among other things, Lim was charged with harming the dignity of North Korea's supreme leader and trying to use religion to destroy the country's system.

Last month, CNN was granted extraordinary access to Lim and broadcast a televised interview in which he described his eight-hour-a-day, six-day-a-week regime of hard labour and said his North Korean jailers had yet to honour his request for a Bible. …

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