North Korea May Have a Missionary in Custody
By CHOE SANG-HUNMARCH 5, 2015
The New York Times
SEOUL, South Korea – The chief pastor from a Korean church in suburban Toronto who failed to return home from a humanitarian mission to North Korea is reportedly being held by the government there.
The pastor, Rev. Lim Hyeon-soo, 60, who has visited North Korea many times, lost contact with his church Jan. 31 after entering the North in late January, Lisa Pak, a spokeswoman for the Light Korean Presbyterian Church said on its website.
Caitlin Workman, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Foreign Affairs and Trade Department, said Thursday that the department was “aware of a Canadian citizen detained in North Korea.” She added that consular officials had been in contact with the person’s family and that they were assisting, though Canada’s effort was restricted in nature.
“As there is no resident Canadian government office in the country, the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular assistance is extremely limited,” Ms. Workman said.
North Korea has detained several foreigners in recent years, accusing a number of them of proselytism.
Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary, was detained in North Korea in late 2012. He was later sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges of trying to establish a secret proselytism network in the isolated country as part of a plot to undermine its political system.
Mr. Bae and another American, Matthew Todd Miller, were freed in November, after the United States government sent its director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., to North Korea.
Ms. Pak said that Mr. Lim, who was born in South Korea, had made about 100 trips to North Korea since the church began a humanitarian mission there in 1996, when North Korea was in the grip of a famine that may have killed as many as two million.
In his visits to North Korea, Ms. Pak said, Mr. Lim carefully followed its prohibition against proselytism. The pastor had traveled to North Korea with a church employee from China, Ms. Pak said. But he failed to rejoin that worker Feb. 4 when they were scheduled to leave.
When he failed to return, his church, which is in Mississauga, Ontario, at first suspected that it might be because of North Korea’s 21-day quarantine on foreign travelers who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus. North Korea lifted the quarantine program this week, according to companies that take tourists to the North.
The worker from China was allowed to leave North Korea without incident, Ms. Pak said.