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Canada expresses dismay at pastor's life sentence in N. Korea

The Canadian government has criticized the North Korean regime for sentencing Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim to hard labor for life. The South Korea-born Lim, who is now in his 60s, had been charged with crimes against the state.

The Canadian pastor, Hyeon Soo Lim, was sentenced to a lifetime of hard labor in North Korea on Wednesday. The leader of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto appeared briefly before the country's Supreme Court in Pyongyang before receiving his sentence.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Canadian foreign ministry said that "Canada is dismayed at the unduly harsh sentence given to Mr. Lim by a North Korean court, particularly given his age and fragile health."

The statement also said that Lim was denied consular access during the trial process. The Canadian government and the pastor's family and friends "remain concerned for his rights and well-being, and wish to see him return to Canada," it added.

A lack of diplomatic relations between Canada and North Korea has left the parish and his family with little hope for his release.

Lim's family said he had gone to North Korea last January as part of routine humanitarian work conducted in a nursing home, orphanage and nursery. According to his relatives, Lim has traveled to North Korea more than 100 times since 1997 for aid missions that have always been about helping people and were never politically motivated.

Originally arrested in February, right at the start of his trip,

Lim confessed in a televised news conference in July,

which was broadcast by North Korean State media.

The Light Korean Presbyterian Church, with 3,000 members, had hoped that new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be able to secure Lim's release before he was sentenced. They petitioned Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion to "strenuously urge the new Liberal government to pursue all possible means to secure the immediate release and return," to which his office commented it was "deeply concerned" about Lim's case and hoped to secure a resolution to his plight.

shs, es/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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