Pyongyang, North Korea – Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea’s Supreme Court has sentenced a Canadian pastor to life in prison for subversion and of spreading false propaganda, what it is called crimes against the state.
Hyeon Soo Lim, who pastors the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, was detained in North Korea about 10 months ago. Now, after a brief 90-minute trial, the court found Lim guilty of joining the United States and South Korea in fomenting an anti-North Korean human rights “racket” and fabricating and circulating propaganda tarnishing the North’s image.
The crimes he was charged along with the false propaganda included harming the dignity of the supreme leadership, trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system, and helping U.S. and the South Korean authorities lure and abduct North Korean citizens, along with aiding their programs to assist defectors from the North.
Lim is a Canadian citizen who emigrated from South Korea in 1986. He traveled to North Korea from China on January 30 on a routine humanitarian trip where he planned to attend projects established in the northeastern city of Rajin by his church. Those projects include an orphanage, a nursery and a nursing home. There, he was detained on February this year.
According to Lim´s family it was a tremendous love for the people of the DPRK that motivated Mr. Lim to travel to the nation over 100 times, but for the republic of North Korea Lim’s motivations were very different. According to the country’s state-run news agency KCNA, Lim had confessed doing activities aimed at toppling the North Korean government in a news conference where he read from a statement back in July.
“The purpose that I traveled about several parts of the country on the pretext of ‘aid’ was to build a base to overthrow the system of the country and create a religious state, taking advantage of the policies of the U.S. and South Korean authorities,” Lim read from the statement according to the Associated Press.
North Korea has always been very clear about its strict rules against any missionary or religious activities that seems as threatening the supremacy of its ruling regime. Merely leaving a Bible in a public place can lead to arrest and possibly severe punishment. Both the U.S. and Canadian governments warn against travel to North Korea.
Although religious freedom is enshrined in the North’s constitution, it does not exist in practice and religious activities are restricted to officially recognized groups connected to the government. Several Christian missionaries have been arrested in the past.
An Australian missionary detained for spreading Christianity was deported last year after he apologized for anti-state religious acts and requested forgiveness and last year Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary who was convicted of “anti-state” crimes was released after serving a 15-year sentence. He was freed after a secret mission to the communist country performed by the top U.S. intelligence official James Clapper.