North Korea releases Canadian detainee

The Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday that North Korea's central court had chose to free Hyeong Soo Lim, who was serving a life sentence for anti-state activities.

Lim was serving a life sentence of hard labour for what North Korea said was an attempt to overthrow the regime.

But the North's official Korean Central News Agency said a court ordered Lim's release on sick bail "from the humanitarian viewpoint".

The regime of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un has released one of its foreign prisoners, Canadian pastor of Korean origin Lim Hyeon-su, for what has been described as "humanitarian reasons".

Lim's family told local media they became very anxious about his welfare since American college student Otto Warmbier died in June just days after being released from a North Korean prison.

Direct flights from North Korea to Japan are extremely rare, especially those to USA military bases.

"Pastor Lim's health and well-being remain of utmost importance to the government of Canada as we continue to engage on this case", Cameron Ahmad, a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office, told The Canadian Press on Tuesday. The 62-year-old's health has deteriorated while in North Korean custody and the pastor has experienced "dramatic" weight loss, Pak said.

"Strategically, North Korea perhaps hopes to engender some goodwill from Canada as tensions rise", Reuters cited Charles Burton, a former Canadian diplomat in China, as saying.

Senior pastor Jason Noh has been in South Korea, staff said, having already been in Asia with church members on a missionary trip to Cambodia and India.

One month into his sentence, Lim told CNN he works eight hours a day, six days a week, with rest breaks, digging holes for the planting of apple trees in the prison orchard. Lim eventually chose to devote more time and money to the needy in North Korea, making about 110 trips there since 1997. Two of them, Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang-dok, were detained earlier this year, while the third, Kim Dong-chul, was arrested in October 2015 and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor on charges of espionage and subversion. Some US officials have blamed North Korea for his death.

"We're so happy he's been released, " Baik said from outside the church.

And of course there is the recent rhetoric between U.S President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un after Kim threatened to fly missiles into the island of Guam, a United States Overseas Territory, and Trump's response was anything but restrained, to say the least.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also confirmed that Hyeon Soo Lim has been released and will soon be reunited with his family.

  • Jon Douglas