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Canadian pastor sentenced to life in North Korea

A Presbyterian minister from Toronto faces a lifetime of hard labor for subversion in Pyongyang. A lack of diplomatic relations has left his family and parish with little hope for his release.

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

Lim, who is now in his 60s, had been charged with crimes against the state.

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 3,000 member strong Light Korean Presbyterian Church had hoped 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.

However, as Ottawa cut off diplomatic relations with Pyongyang in 2010, negotiating a release for Lim would likely prove difficult.

es/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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