Officials confirmed that Hyeon-Soo Lim, a Korean Canadian pastor who led Light Presbyterian Church in Toronto, is detained in North Korea. Lim’s family received confirmation from the Canadian government on March 4, but where he is exactly has not yet been released. Light Presbyterian Church has been praying for Lim and started a petition to help bring Lim out of detainment, and as of this past Sunday, the petition had 1,360 signatures. Korean church leaders in southern California are also expected to start a movement to pray for and put in efforts to secure Lim’s release.
Lim arrived in North Korea on January 27 and went to Najin on the 30th, but he lost contact with individuals outside of North Korea after he went into Pyongyang on the 31st.
Some have been considering the possibility that he may have been under North Korea’s quarantine for Ebola, which is about 21 days, but there have been no exact or confirmed reports that explain his lack of contact. Additionally, there have been reports that Lim was compelled to come into Pyongyang by a high-ranking official who said he needed to discuss certain matters with him, which further add to the suspicion of many that he may have been forcibly detained by the government.
Though Lim has a pass that allows him to enter North Korea freely, there are reports that say he had been wary of going into Pyongyang after Sung Taek Jang—with whom Lim had a close relationship with—was executed by Kim Jong Eun. If Lim is indeed detained, this brings about the likelihood that he is detained for political reasons.
Lim, who has been called “the Godfather of North Korea Missions” by the Korean church community, has established noodle factories and ramen factories within North Korea, and has even started a movement to send $240,000’s worth of winter clothing to orphans in North Korea. Lim also had been known to actively support Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) financially.
Lim has been serving as the lead pastor of Light Presbyterian Church for 25 years. On October 5, 2014, he decided to pass on the position of senior pastor to Hee Song Noh, who pastored alongside Lim as the pastor for the English congregation, and the church was simply waiting for the approval of the presbytery this spring to make the transition official. Before his visit to North Korea, Lim said that he planned on retiring some time this year, and said he would dedicate himself full-time to doing mission work to “unreached people groups and North Korea.”
Jae Yeol Kim, was another Korean Canadian who was arrested and detained in North Korea. Kim was arrested in 2007 while he was worshipping at his dental office, and was detained for two months. Kim was involved in medical ministry in North Korea and emphasized human rights in his approach to his involvement in North Korea. He was arrested on charges of criticizing the North Korean government and for attempting to establish churches in North Korea.
This article has been updated on March 9, 2015 at 4:53 P.M. PDST.