Missing pastor jailed in North Korea

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim led his church to conduct many humanitarian efforts in North Korea since the mid 1990's and has visited the country numerous times despite travel risks. | Light Korean Presbyterian church via Reuters

PYONGYANG, North Korea (Christian Examiner) -- The Canadian government has confirmed missing pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, 60, who entered North Korea in January on a humanitarian mission is being detained there.

According to the pastor's family, North Korea has alerted the Canadian government it is holding Lim.

Though it is uncertain when he was jailed, the pastor of the 3,000-member Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, a city located next to Toronto, Canada, last spoke to a parishioner January 31 and was scheduled to leave Feb. 4.

Lim reportedly traveled to the northern region of Rajin to check on the facilities of an orphanage, school and nursing home the church runs there.

Another of the church's pastors, Lisa Pak, told CBC News Toronto that The Light has operated in the area since 1996 when North Korea faced famine. She noted that Lim understood the risk of traveling to the area but had chosen to do so over 100 times throughout the years. Pak told the Toronto Star it was Lim who led the church to launch humanitarian missions to North Korea.

'We know what North Korea is. They're a very secretive nation and there are certain concerns there when you do travel. I know it's not routine for a lot of average travellers, but for him it was," Pak said.

The Canadian Foreign Affairs International Trade Department released a statement indicating they were making efforts to help Lim but had barriers to overcome.

"There is no resident Canadian government office in the country. The ability of Canadian officials to provide consular assistance is extremely limited," the statement said, according to CBC.

For that reason, the Canadian government regularly advises against traveling to North Korea.

In a statement released by the church, the congregation and Lim's family have requested prayer for Lim's release.

"The Lim family and the church community is asking fellow Canadians and the international community to continue praying for his release and safe return home."