Pyongyang sets free Canadian jailed for ‘plots’North Korea said Wednesday that it has released an imprisoned Canadian pastor for humanitarian reasons amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The Korea Central News Agency, the communist state’s official media outlet, reported that Lim Hyeon-su, a Canadian civilian, was released in line with the decision of the Central Court of the North.
Lim, a Korean-Canadian pastor, has been held in captivity in the North since he entered the country via China on a humanitarian mission in January 2015.
In December, the North’s highest court sentenced Lim to life in prison with hard labor, citing his “subversive plots” against the North’s regime.
His release came one day after a special envoy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in the North.
Daniel Jean, national security advisor to the prime minister of Canada, and his party arrived in Pyongyang, the KCNA reported on Tuesday.
The visit drew speculation that the envoy was to persuade the North to release the detained pastor.
Lim’s family has been urging the Canadian government to step up efforts to release him after U.S. college student Otto Warmbier was released in a coma from North Korea in June following a 17-month detention and died days after a medical evacuation.
Lim has visited the country more than 100 times for humanitarian activities since 1997.
South Korea on Thursday welcomed North Korea’s release of the pastor, urging the North to free the South Korean citizens still held in captivity.
“Our government welcomes the release of pastor Lim Hyeon-soo, who had been detained in North Korea,” Cho June-hyuck, spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a press briefing. The spokesman said Canada has been in close communication with South Korea on Lim’s captivity as it is a like-minded country that supports South Korea’s policy direction on the North.
Currently, six South Koreans, including three Christian missionaries and three Americans, are detained in the North.