Church says detained pastor has no ties to purged North Korean official

Tue Mar 10, 2015 1:38pm EDT
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By Euan Rocha

TORONTO (Reuters) - A Canadian pastor detained in North Korea has done only humanitarian work there, his church said on Friday as it denied a media report that he had ties to a purged and executed uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim, 60, the leader of the 3,000-member Light Korean Presbyterian Church in suburban Toronto, was last heard from on Jan. 31 and is believed to be the Canadian who diplomats have confirmed is being detained by North Korean authorities.

Church spokeswoman Lisa Pak denied a media report that Lim's projects were linked to people who knew Jang Song-Thaek, the purged and executed uncle of Kim Jong-un. She said Lim visited North Korea more than 100 times, including since the execution of the uncle.

"The overall focus of his mission there has never been political, it has always been to help people," Pak said.

"He has obeyed the rules of the government. We are clearly a Christian group, but we have never asserted that there," she said. "We have done all we can for the last two decades to help with humanitarian projects. We did not ever mean any harm."

Pak said the church is confident Ottawa is working for Lim's release, though she said it unclear what diplomatic discussions are taking place.

Canada suspended diplomatic ties with Pyongyang in 2010, leaving it with limited influence there.

Sweden, which has an embassy in Pyongyang and provides some diplomatic services for Canada, said on Friday that its ambassador is pressing for a meeting with a Canadian citizen detained by the isolated state. It declined to confirm the identity of the person.   Continued...

A man takes part in a prayer service for Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim, inside a chapel at the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, March 9, 2015.   REUTERS/Mark Blinch