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Pastor freed from North Korean prison arrives back in Canada

  • THE CANADIAN PRESS VIA AP

    James Lim, the son of Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim, spoke to the media at the Light Presbyterian Church, in Mississauga, Ontario, today.

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario >> A Canadian pastor who was imprisoned for more than two years in North Korea arrived back home today.

Hyeon Soo Lim was serving a life sentence of hard labor in North Korea for alleged anti-state activities, but was released last week on what the North Korean government described as sick bail.

His son, James Lim, said it was surreal to see him again after living in fear over what might happen to him.

James Lim said his dad was extremely grateful to the Canadian government. He said his father was resting at home and looked forward to going to his church’s Sunday service and meeting with the community after so long.

“Now more than ever, he’s never felt more Canadian,” the son said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent national security adviser Daniel Jean to North Korea to seek Lim’s freedom.

Lim, a 62-year-old South Korean-born Canadian citizen, was convicted and sentenced in 2015 for allegedly trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system and helping U.S. and South Korean authorities lure and abduct North Korean citizens.

South Korea, the U.S. and others often accuse North Korea of using foreign detainees to wrest diplomatic concessions, and foreigners have said after their release that their declarations of guilt were coerced while in North Korean custody.

Lim’s release came nearly two months after U.S. college student Otto Warmbier died shortly after he was released from North Korea in a coma. Warmbier had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016 after being accused of stealing a propaganda poster.

Lim is pastor at the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto. His supporters have said he was on a humanitarian mission to North Korea when he was detained.

Canada does not have diplomatic offices in Pyongyang and relies on Sweden to handle consular issues.

At least three Americans and six South Koreans remain in custody in the North.

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