Ever since he was elected in October, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has won over many hearts with his diverse cabinet, warm welcome of Syrian refugees and, more recently, his love for Star Wars. Nearly two months passed smoothly, with no political or security threats to test his capabilities as the new leader of his country.
But it appears Trudeau’s first international challenge has finally emerged in the form of Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim — the Canadian pastor who was recently sentenced to life in prison in North Korea.
The 60-year-old man, who is reportedly in poor health, frequently visited the secretive state, embarking on various humanitarian — not political — missions. He made around 100 trips since 1997, according to the Guardian.
However, when he left for North Korea on Jan. 31, he was detained in the following month for allegedly engaging in what North Korean authorities referred to as “subversive plots and activities."
As per KCNA, North Korea’s state-controlled news agency, Lim "committed anti-DPRK religious activities, conducted false propaganda among overseas Koreans, and took active part in the operation of the U.S. and (a South Korean) conservative group to lure and abduct DPRK citizens ... in their programs for 'aiding defectors from the north.'"
The pastor even confessed to all his “heinous crimes” in a broadcast in August, but the hermit kingdom is notorious for extracting such statements from prisoners via torture.
Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs stated it was an "unduly harsh sentence ... particularly given his age and fragile health."
Trudeau responded by saying Canada has “tremendous concern” about the case.
“The issues of North Korea’s governance and judicial system are well-known and we are very concerned about someone being sentenced to life in North Korea,” he told reporters in Ottawa.
Although Canadian officials were tasked with bringing Lim home back in November, days after Trudeau’s election, they haven’t been allowed to meet him.
Canadian citizens are now calling on Trudeau to mediate and act beyond words and condemnation to bring Lim back home.
Last year, the last two American prisoners in North Korea, Kenneth Bae and Todd Miller, were released after 2 years and 7 months of imprisonment, respectively, after Clapper delivered a mysterious letter from President Barack Obama addressed to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
So far, nobody knows exactly what was written in the letters that led to the prisoners’ release, but the North Korean government issued a statement about the release, saying it received an "earnest apology" from Obama for the men's actions, adding the two were "sincerely repentant of their crimes and (were) behaving themselves while serving their terms."