ICC NOTE: Detained pastor Hyeon-Soo Lim has been incarcerated since January of 2015 in North Korea with formal sentencing occurring ten months later. A source close to the pastor has called his charge of plotting to overthrow the country to be “outrageously unjust”. The source, a North Korean defector who has known Mr. Lim for nearly a decade, sat down for an interview with Daily NK (a pro-democracy news site located in Seoul, South Korea) describing the relationship between them and the reasons for pastor Lim’s visit to the hermit kingdom.
1/19/2016 North Korea (Daily NK) – The life sentence of ‘hard labor’ handed down to Canadian Pastor Lim Hyeon Soo on charges of ‘plotting to overthrow the country’ is “outrageously unjust,” a source who has known the pastor for nearly a decade told Daily NK.
The source, who is a North Korean defector, said Pyongyang’s treatment of the pastor is egregious especially given the extensive volunteer work he had done for the North Korean people over the past two decades.
His sudden detainment has also raised speculation among the Korean-Canadian community that the pastor may have ties with Kim Jong Un’s executed uncle Jang Song Thaek.
Daily NK sat down with the source, who asked to remain anonymous, to learn more about the pastor and his past activities in the North.
1. [Daily NK] How long have you known Pastor Lim?
Since the mid-2000s until he was detained in the North last year in January, I was with him in Canada. In the spring or summer, we would go to nearby places on trips, and in the winter, we would watch people go fishing. I also attended his sermons and was active in supporting his work.
2. What is Pastor Lim like as a person?
It’s not just his title of being a pastor, he is a really great human being. He really helped people like me who are from North Korea a lot. In some ways, I would say a lot of people from the North managed to get permanent residency in Canada thanks to his help. He provided a lot of financial help but also supported us so we would be able to settle down quickly in Canada. Defectors who were able to get permanent residency thanks to Pastor Lim now have stable lives in Canada.
Another thing is that he’s very frugal. He has been living in one apartment for 25 years now and has an old Korean car. He was always ready to offer more up for others, and that’s what led him to his volunteer work in North Korea. In North America, if you have a church with over 3,000 members in the congregation, it’s considered a huge church. I don’t know how this will sound, but had he wanted to, he would have been able to live a comfortable life in Canada, but he didn’t choose to live that way at all.
3. I’ve heard that Pastor Lim has been visiting North Korea since the late 90s. Was there a reason why he started to visit?
There was the religious duty that he had, but more than anything he just had a lot of interest in North Korea. During his sermons, he would always talk about the need to help the people in North Korea. So he would go to the North two to three times a month. All combined, I think he has visited more than 100 times.
4. If he has been there more than 100 times, I imagine he must have been engaged in a lot of different activities. Do you know what they might be?
He was involved in a lot of different things. He built a bread factory in the Rajin-Sonbong area and also opened something similar to an orphanage for kkotjebi [homeless children who often beg for food]. I don’t know exactly where, but I think it’s in Pyongan Province that he built a noodle factory as well. He could not do this just with the offerings from his church, so he also received aid from American human rights organizations to collect the funds. The pastor also sent ramyeon [instant noodles] and other aid supplies on countless occasions.