Canadian pastor faced 'overwhelming loneliness' in North Korea labor camp

A Canadian pastor recently freed from imprisonment in North Korea spoke Sunday of the "overwhelming loneliness" and harsh conditions he experienced during his two-and-a-half years in a labor camp.

Published: 14th August 2017 08:47 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th August 2017 08:47 AM   |  A+A-

FILE - In this file image made from July 30, 2015, video, Canadian Hyeon Soo Lim speaks in Pyongyang, North Korea. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office confirmed a delegation is in North Korea to discuss the Canadian pastor imprisoned there and North Korean media said Trudeau’s national security adviser, Daniel Jean, had arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. | AP

By AFP

MISSISSAUGA: A Canadian pastor recently freed from imprisonment in North Korea spoke Sunday of the "overwhelming loneliness" and harsh conditions he experienced during his two-and-a-half years in a labor camp.

Hyeon Soo Lim, 62, was imprisoned by Pyongyang in January 2015 for carrying out "subversive activities," a charge steadfastly denied by Ottawa which sent a high-level delegation this week to secure his release.

The missionary finally returned home on Saturday, with his captors citing clemency on medical grounds.

He appeared slightly frail but in good spirits as he returned to his congregation at the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, a Toronto suburb.

Wearing a black suit and tie with a white shirt, the pastor sat alongside his son in the first row of worshippers. His granddaughter, who was born while he was away, perched on his knees.

He told the congregation: "From the first day of my detainment to the day I was released, I ate 2,757 meals in isolation by myself. It was difficult to see when and how the entire ordeal would end.

"During the winter, I had to dig holes that measured one meter wide and one meter deep. The ground was frozen. The mud was so hard that it took two days to dig one hole. 

"It was incredibly challenging. My upper body was sweating, my fingers and toes were frostbitten. I also worked inside a coal storage facility, breaking apart coal."

The Canadian government has also thanked Sweden for its role in securing Lim's release, which comes as the United States and North Korea are engaged in a standoff after Pyongyang successfully tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles.

US President Donald Trump raised the stakes this week by vowing to rain down "fire and fury" on the authoritarian state, which is presently holding three American citizens.

At the time of his arrest, members of the close-knit circle of ethnic Korean missionaries in Canada and the United States called Lim one of the most influential Christian missionaries operating in North Korea.

He had visited the country dozens of times, working with orphanages and nursing homes.

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