The Canadian government has confirmed to the family of pastor Hyeon Soo Lim that he has been detained in North Korea. This follows earlier reports that nobody had heard from Lim, 60, since he crossed the Chinese border on 31 January.
Lim, who is married with one son, grew up in South Korea but emigrated to Toronto in 1988. He has become the latest in a series of religious figures to disappear or be detained in the North. Last year, American-Korean pastor Kenneth Bae was released after being sentenced to a labour camp.
Lim, who is chief pastor at the Light Korean Presbyterian Church, Toronto, has visited North Korea more than 100 times and planned to visit orphanages and a nursing facility that his church sponsors.
Lisa Pak, a spokeswoman from his church, said: ‘It was not a political trip, it was about helping people’. With Korean authorities often hostile to Christians, Ms Pak said, ‘He doesn’t hide [his faith] but he doesn’t advertise it’.
North Korea periodically detains foreign nationals, particularly those linked to religious activity. US citizens are generally held the longest. North Korea is seen as using them to try to extract political concessions.