A Korean-Canadian pastor detained in North Korea since January has admitted to "indescribable treason" — but his future remains unknown.
Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim, 60, entered the country on Jan. 31 on a humanitarian mission and was scheduled to leave Feb. 4.
Lim had been to North Korea over 100 times on humanitarian missions since the mid-1990s, according to his church, the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ont.
“The family and church are eager to have Mr. Lim home after close to seven months in detention in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” read a statement from spokesperson Lisa Pak on Thursday.
“He remains a compassionate and generous man and we hope to see him home soon. We are grateful for all those who share in our concerns and ask for your continued prayers and support.”
Lim appeared at the People’s Palace of Culture in Pyongyang earlier in the day, according to The Associated Press. The Toronto-area pastor gave a statement admitting guilt to providing aid to undermine the North Korean government.
“In order to create the impression that it is God, and not the Worker’s Party and this country’s government which give things to eat and provide means to live we intentionally drew the cross and wrote the name of the church and bible phrases on the sacks of provisions that were donated,” Lim said.
He then apologized for this “indescribable treason.”
The North Korean regime has been accused by others, including U.S. Korean War veteran Merill Newman, of coercing admissions of guilt in exchange for release.
Friends and family weren’t initially concerned when they didn’t hear from Lim for three weeks after entering North Korea as there was a three-week quarantine instituted for foreigners to protect the isolated nation against ebola. In March, his family confirmed the government was holding him.
In an email, Pak said the church was uncertain of when Lim would return to Canada.
The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs did not offer any details related to Lim's possible release when contacted for comment.
"Canada is deeply concerned with the case of Mr. Lim who remains detained in North Korea," spokesperson Diana Khaddaj wrote in an email. "We continue to advocate for consular access and for a resolution in his case. In the interest of Mr. Lim’s case, no further information can be shared."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated Lim has been granted release. That information remains unconfirmed. This version has been updated.
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