A Toronto-based pastor has been sentenced to a life of hard labor after having confessed to all his “heinous” crimes against the State and Kim Jong-un.
North Korea continues its international isolation whenever possible
With no offense meant to the family and congregation of Rev. Lim Hyeon-soo, he got off easy. North Korea just doesn’t care what anyone thinks. It certainly doesn’t care what the United Nation thinks as it’s nuclear aspirations make abundantly clear on a regular basis. The dictatorship has no qualms about threatening the United States with nuclear weapons while lobbing missiles over Japan when it, seemingly, gets bored.
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I say got off easy, because frankly I, and others, fully expected the pastor to receive the death penalty as other missionaries before him have received. It could, however, certainly be argued that a life of hard labor in a North Korean prison is a fate worse than death.
Mr. Lim has to consider himself fortunate as executions are quite swift in North Korea and terribly final. There is precedent that could see Mr. Lim released. Last year, North Korea released Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae and two other Americans leaving Mr. Lim as the only known westerner in custody. Bae was originally sentenced to 15 years hard labor but was released after serving two years of his sentence.
North Korea has previously sentenced a Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae to 15 years of hard labor but released him last year after holding him for two years.
While the prosecution sought the death penalty, his “defense” lawyers asked for leniency “so that he can witness for himself the reality of the nation of the Sun as it grows in power and prosperity,” this according to the North’s official news agency KCNA.
North Korea gets its “confession”
North Korea has, for years, attempted to shield its citizens from nearly every potential outside influence.
Lim, who was arrested in February, was accused of attempting to overthrow the North Korean government an subvert the order of the State with 18 years of “religious activities”. The South Korean-born Canadian pastor of the 3,000-member Light Korean Presbyterian Church had traveled to North Korea on more than 100 occasions since 1997. While the North acknowledged his good work in opening both an orphanage and a nursing home, it believes that his presence there was merely a pretext for helping people from the North defect by sneaking into China and Mongolia.
During the trial, and prior to his recent sentencing, Lim admitted to “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,” according to KCNA.
Pleas for compassion from his church and family
While there is still hope for Mr. Lim’s release it remains to be seen how much incarceration and hard labor the frail 61 with health issues can endure.
In March, a month after being taken into custody, his church said in a statement that Lim has “a very serious health problem, very high blood pressure, he’s on a prescription, and his family is anxious to send medicine.”
Following the election of the new Liberal government in Canada last month, Mr. Lim’s family released a statement asking for help in securing Mr. Lim’s release.
“It is our hope that Prime Minister Trudeau, Foreign Minister Stephane Dion and the newly elected government continues to hold this case in the highest priority, doing what is necessary to secure the safe and speedy return of Reverend Lim to his family and community,” the statement said.