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North Korea releases imprisoned Canadian pastor, state news agency says

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North Korea releases imprisoned Canadian pastor, state news agency says,

North Korea has released a Canadian pastor who was serving a life sentence of hard labour, the country’s official KCNA news agency said on Wednesday.

“Rim Hyon Su, a Canadian civilian, was released on sick bail according to the decision of the Central Court of the DPRK on August 9, 2017, from the humanitarian viewpoint,” it said, using the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Also known as Hyeon Soo Lim, the pastor served at one of the largest churches in Canada, Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ont. He was sentenced to hard labour for life in December 2015 for what North Korea says was an attempt to overthrow the regime. 

The 62-year-old, who was born in South Korea, is reportedly in poor health. He is said to need medication to treat high blood pressure. 

A spokesperson for his family — his wife and son live in the Toronto area — was unable to confirm the news of his release. 

The family “has not heard anything of the kind,” Lisa Pak told CBC News. “We are indeed hoping to have him home.”

CBC News reported on Tuesday that Daniel Jean, the national security adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had arrived in North Korea to negotiate his release. 

The negotiations got underway amid heightened tensions between Pyongyang and Washington over the former’s missile and nuclear weapons tests. The isolated state said it is considering an attack against the U.S. territory of Guam after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened it with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” 

Otto Warmbier

North Korea released another foreign prisoner, U.S. tourist Otto Warmbier, in June, though he died just days later. (Kim Kwang Hyon/Associated Press)

Lim’s church has said he had visited North Korea more than 100 times since 1997 and helped set up an orphanage and nursing home. Canada does not have an embassy in North Korea, and has advised against all travel there.

One month into his sentence, Lim told CNN he spent eight hours a day, six days a week, digging holes for apple trees in the labour camp’s orchard. He said he had not seen any other prisoners. 

North Korea released another foreign prisoner, U.S. tourist Otto Warmbier, in June. Warmbier had been sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years’ hard labour for subversion but arrived home in a coma and died just days later. Pyongyang blamed the 22-year-old’s condition on botulism. 

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