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North Korea detains Christian church leader from Canada

A pastor from Canada, missing in North Korea, has been detained by authorities. He joins a number of Christians from North America to be arrested in the communist state.

The 60-year-old Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim, from the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, was last in contact with his church on January 31 just after he arrived in North Korea via China.

The head of one of Canada's largest religious congregations, Lim was on a humanitarian mission.

On Thursday, Canada's Foreign Ministry said it was aware of a Canadian citizen being detained in North Korea. Ottawa suspended diplomatic relations with Pyongyang in 2010 and the ministry added that "the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular assistance is extremely limited."

Spokeswoman for Kim's church, Lisa Pak said, "The Lim family has received notice from Canadian officials that the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has confirmed that Mr. Hyeon Soo Lim is being held in North Korea." Pak added that Lim is facing charges but was unable to say what they were.

Lim was believed to be being held in a 21-day quarantine imposed on all foreign visitors to North Korea as part of measures against Ebola. This period should have ended on February 21.

Pak said Lim has made hundreds of trips to North Korea, where he helps oversee a nursing home, a nursery and an orphanage in the Rajin region. Lim has been head pastor at his church for 28 years. Lim immigrated to Canada from South Korea in 1986, is married and has one son.

Both North Korea and China have placed restrictions on Christian groups over the past year. A number of American Christians have been detained by North Korea.

Last month, China said it had detained Kevin Garratt, also from Canada, on suspicion of stealing state secrets.

jm/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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