March 5, 2015 / 1:37 PM / 4 years ago

Missing Canadian pastor being held by North Korea: church

A photo provided by the Light Korean Presbyterian Church on March 5, 2015 shows Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim at an agricultural project in North Korea, with the faces of North Korean workers digitally blocked by the church to hide their identities. REUTERS/Light Presbyterian Church/Handout via Reuters

OTTAWA (Reuters) - North Korea has detained the head pastor of a large Canadian church who went missing after he traveled to the secretive state on a humanitarian mission, a church spokeswoman said Thursday.

Canadian foreign ministry officials informed the family of the detention of Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim, 60, from the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, spokeswoman Lisa Pak told Reuters. He was last heard from on Jan. 31.

Lim had made hundreds of trips to North Korea, where he helps oversee a nursing home, a nursery and an orphanage in the Rajin region, Pak said. She said she wouldn’t speculate on why North Korea had detained him.

North Korea and China have clamped down on Christian groups over the past year, and several American Christians have been detained by North Korea.

A spokeswoman for Lynne Yelich, a junior Canadian foreign minister who handles consular cases, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Canada suspended diplomatic relations with Pyongyang in 2010, and in 2011, imposed wide-ranging sanctions in response to North Korean nuclear weapons tests.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bernadette Baum

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