North Korea outraged over Canada’s reaction to pastor’s life imprisonment with hard labour

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Participants pray for Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim who is being held in North Korea during a joint multi-cultural prayer meeting at Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, December 20, 2015. Canadian diplomats were allowed to meet detained pastor Lim on Friday, after he was sentenced to life in prison in North Korea earlier last week, and found him in good spirits and health, a church spokeswoman said on Sunday. Reuters/Hyungwon Kang

North Korea has unleashed outrage over Canada’s reaction to sentencing Hyeon Soo Lim, South Korean-born Canadian pastor, to hard labour for life.

“Public officials of Canada, including its premier, have been rashly unleashing malicious slander against our republic about the hard labor for life sentence against him,” Korean Central News Agency quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying. “We cannot suppress outrage that the Canadian government dares to pick a quarrel with our fair and just judicial decision speaking of ‘concern’ and ‘violation of international law’ when its citizen has committed a vicious crime against us.”

North Korea’s highest court has ruled on Dec. 16 that Lim, who is a pastor at the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, has tried to harm the dignity of North Korea’s supreme leadership and attempted to bring down the government and establish a religious state in its place.

Lim has been detained since February this year after he went to the communist country for humanitarian work. Lim has visited the country more than 100 times since 1997 and supported a nursing home, an orphanage and a nursery in the country.

“The issues of North Korea’s governance and judicial system are well known. We are very concerned about someone being sentenced to life in North Korea,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said after the ruling.

Canadian officials were allowed to meet Lim over the weekend for the first time since February. They have assured that they are making all the necessary efforts to bring the pastor back home.

In July, Lim confessed at a news conference organised by state authorities in Pyongyang that he plotted to overthrow the communist government of the country. However, according to other foreigners who have been detained in the country and later released, such confessions are coerced.

"We want to be very careful … we don't want to offend them … we just want to help them and love them," the CTV News quoted Lisa Pak, a spokesperson for the family and the Light Korean Presbyterian Church, as saying.

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