North Korea sentences Canadian pastor to hard labor for life

Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:00pm EST
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By Jack Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea's highest court has sentenced a South Korea-born Canadian pastor to hard labor for life for subversion, the North's official KCNA news agency reported on Wednesday, a punishment Canada condemned as "unduly harsh."

Hyeon Soo Lim, the head pastor at one of Canada's largest churches, has been held by North Korea since February and has appeared on its state media confessing to crimes against the state. He had been doing humanitarian work in North Korea since 1997, according to his church.

Lim admitted during the trial to "not only viciously defaming the highest dignity of Korea and its system but also possessing the wicked intention of trying to topple the Republic by staging an anti-state conspiracy," KCNA said.

The court said Lim had attempted to overthrow the North Korean government and undermine its social system with "religious activities" for the past 18 years, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.

The prosecution sought the death penalty, but the defense asked for leniency despite the gravity of his crimes.

The court sentenced him to hard labor for life, KCNA said.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadian officials would continue to press for access to Lim.

"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," he told reporters.   Continued...

South Korea-born Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim attends his trial at a North Korean court in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang December 16, 2015.  REUTERS/KCNA