Family of Mississauga Man Imprisoned in North Korea Wants Government to do More

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When news broke that 22-year-old American university student Otto Warmbier died shortly after his release from a North Korean prison, the family of a Mississauga pastor who is currently serving a life sentence in the country asked the Canadian government to work harder to secure his release.

Hyeon Soo Lim, a reverend with the Light Korean Presbyterian Church (a sizeable organization with presence in Toronto and Mississauga), has been serving a life sentence in the infamous dictatorship since 2015.

Lim, who was doing humanitarian work in the country, was given a life-long hard labour sentence in December 2015 for allegedly plotting to overthrow the North Korean regime.

Recently, Reuters reported that family spokesperson Lisa Pak said Lim's family is asking the government to step up efforts to secure the reverend's release. The family and supporters even arranged a rally calling for increased efforts on June 29 at Mel Lastman Square in Toronto.

“The family is very concerned at this point,” said Pak, as reported by Reuters. “They are hoping the Canadian government will turn (efforts) up a few notches in terms of active diplomacy and really start engaging.”

Although Canadian officials have been involved in Lim's case, Pak says there have been no "substantial developments" since December of 2016.

Lim's case has been discussed by Canadian officials over the past few years, with MP Omar Alghabra once telling Tony Clement that the Liberal government "continues to be engaged in [his] case."

"I have met with advocates for Pastor Lim and members of the Canadian-Korean community, including today," Alghabra said in the House of Commons in February 2016. "I will be meeting with them after question period. I can assure the House that we will continue to be engaged in this file until we resolve this case.

More recently, the Swedish ambassador visited Lim and told his family that he appears to be in good health.

The situation is a complex one, especially since Canada has very limited contact with the authoritarian country. As of now, the government of Canada strongly advises residents to avoid any and all travel to the DPRK, as it has no resident Canadian government office in the country.

Canada is also careful to tell citizens that "the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular assistance in North Korea is extremely limited."

That said, it does appear the government has been active on Lim's file.

According to Reuters, the family spoke with Canadian officials recently and were promised something different would be done, though details were not provided.

A spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada, the government’s foreign affairs department, told Reuters that the case is “absolutely a priority.”

Multiple media outlets say Lim has been dedicated to relieving the humanitarian crisis in North Korea for years, reportedly traveling to the country over 100 times since 1997.

It'll be interesting to see what the Trudeau government does going forward, especially in light of the tragic Warmbier case.

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