North Korea releases Canadian pastor on "sick bail"

North Korea releases Canadian pastor on

North Korea releases Canadian pastor on "sick bail"

South Korea, the USA and others often accuse North Korea of using foreign detainees to gain diplomatic concessions, and foreigners have said after their release that their declarations of guilt had been coerced while in North Korean custody.

North Korea has released Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim after more than two and a half years in detention, state-run news agency KCNA said on Wednesday.

Lim, a pastor with the Light Korean Presbyterian Church of Mississauga, Ont., had been sentenced by a North Korean court to life in prison with hard labour for what it called crimes against the state.

His release comes two months after American college student Otto Warmbier was freed from North Korea, but died shortly after.

Lim, who was born in South Korea, had visited the Communist country around 100 times over 20 years to support an orphanage and nursing home his church founded.

"So far, it has been confirmed that government officials and a doctor are accompanying Reverend Lim", said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to media.

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Warmbier, sentenced last year to 15 years' hard labor for trying to steal a propaganda item from his hotel during a tour, died in a Cincinnati hospital just days after being released in a coma.

His family has not been allowed to see him during his imprisonment, but have been able to send him letters and blood pressure medication via the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, which often serves as an intermediary for prisoners from nations with no formal diplomatic ties to North Korea.

Mr Lim was convicted and sentenced in 2015 on charges of trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system and helping United States and South Korean authorities lure and abduct North Korean citizens. Therefore, in the meantime we ask the media for privacy as he reconnects with his loved ones and receives medical attention. A tearful Mr. Lim later appeared in a government-arranged news conference in Pyongyang and confessed to plotting to overthrow the North Korean leadership by undermining the "worship" of Kim Jong-un.

Lim, who has a wife and son living in the Toronto area, started the Light Korean Presbyterian Church almost three decades ago, shortly after he emigrated from South Korea.

He is the second foreign citizen to be released on what the North Koreans have termed "humanitarian grounds" in 2017, following the release of US citizen Otto Warmbier in June.

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