Canadian church wants new PM to help free pastor detained in North Korea

Thu Nov 12, 2015 4:53pm EST
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TORONTO (Reuters) - One of Canada's largest churches said on Thursday it wants new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to bring attention to the case of its pastor detained in North Korea when he meets with Asian leaders next week in Manila.

Trudeau, who ousted the nine-year-old government of former prime minister Stephen Harper last month, is under pressure to advance a multitude of issues as he embarks on his first global trip as Canada's new leader, including the case of Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim.

Lim, head of the 3,000-member Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, was detained during a humanitarian trip to North Korea in February, and in July confessed to crimes aimed at overthrowing the state.

"We are hoping that the Trudeau government takes full advantage of whatever means and platform available - (for example) at APEC - to bring international awareness to Mr. Lim's detainment that would help move diplomatic talks to a speedy and positive resolution," church spokeswoman Lisa Pak said in an email.

The church last week sent an email to Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion to "strenuously urge the new Liberal government to pursue all possible means to secure the immediate release and return" of Lim.

Trudeau will meet with leaders of the Group of 20 in Turkey this weekend before heading on to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in the Philippines next week.

Canada suspended diplomatic relations with Pyongyang in 2010, making progress on Lim's case difficult.

A spokesman for Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs said consular officials are in contact with Lim's family and Canada remains "deeply concerned" with the case.

"We continue to advocate for consular access and for a resolution in his case," spokesman Francois Lasalle said in an email.   Continued...

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a news conference in Ottawa, Canada November 12, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie