x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 October 2017

After two-year ordeal in North Korea, Canadian pastor returns home 

The release of Hyeon Soo-lim - who was arrested in 2015 on charges of subversive activities against the North Korean regime - comes at a moment of high tensions between Pyongyang and Washington

File photo from a video screen grab showing Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo-lim speaking in Pyongyang, North Korea. Hyeon was released on August 12, 2017 amid high tensions between North Korea and the United States. AP Photo
File photo from a video screen grab showing Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo-lim speaking in Pyongyang, North Korea. Hyeon was released on August 12, 2017 amid high tensions between North Korea and the United States. AP Photo

A Canadian pastor imprisoned in North Korea for more than two years returned home on Saturday days after being released.

Hyeon Soo-lim, 62, was arrested in January 2015 on charges of subversive activities against the North Korean regime, an accusation denied by Canada.

Although sentenced to hard labour for life, he was granted "sick bail" following a visit to Pyongyang by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau's national security advisor Daniel Jean.

"Today, we join Pastor Lim's family and congregation in celebrating his long-awaited return to Canada," the foreign affairs ministry said.

"Canada has been actively engaged on Mr Lim's case at all levels, and we will continue to support him and his family now that he has returned," it added.

According to local media reports, Mr Lim was flown to a military base in Trenton, some 170 kilometres east of Toronto.

His release came at a moment of high tensions between North Korea and the United States. Three Americans remain in the custody of the regime of Kim Jong-un.

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Pyongyang has threatened to launch missiles on the island Guam, a strategic US outpost in the Pacific some 3,300km from North Korea.

US president Donald Trump for his part as promised to rain down "fire and fury" on Mr Kim's regime.

Mr Lim, who belongs to the Light Korean Presbyterian Church, was considered at the time of his arrest one of the most influential Christian missionaries in North Korea.

He had previously travelled extensively in the country to work in orphanages and hospitals.

But some projects he worked on, including a noodle plant and flour mills, were linked to associates of Jang Song-thaek, the purged uncle of leader Kim.

Jang was arrested and executed for treason in December 2013.